Set aside the question about whether or not global warming is actually occurring (the science shows the earth, as a whole, hasn’t warmed at all in the last decade), and most certainly set aside the debate about whether or not global warming is man made and the result of greenhouse gasses. For the moment, just accept that what we are told is almost universally accepted as fact.
Now, ask yourself this: can I profit from global warming? Large emitters of carbon dioxide, to avoid penalties, are looking for people who can sequester carbon in order to offset their emissions.
It was an eye-opening experience traveling to Australia, which had signed onto the Kyoto agreement, and listening to producers consider carbon credits in the same vein as we would mature cow size. The Australians are interested in crossbreeding and feed efficiency, not for increased production or lowered feed costs, but for the potential they might offer in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Unlike large parts of the world where carbon offsets has become big business, the U.S. carbon offset market is in its infancy, but discussions are growing. In Australia, entire ranches are being sold so trees can be planted, and a whole host of practices from tillage to rotation protocols are being rewarded. The key is to capture more carbon more easily or more cheaply than an emitter can reduce emissions, so that the net effect is less emissions at the most cost effective level.
Some U.S. producers are taking advantage of the small voluntary market that has been created. Right now in the U.S. you can get paid roughly $6/metric ton of carbon, which does limit which practices are viable. In Europe, the value of sequestering one metric ton of carbon is worth $35. If the U.S. adopts the Kyoto Protocol, and it could happen, economists believe that the value could rise to $250/ton, which could actually make cows a minor sideline business to carbon sequestering.