Apparently not! Dragons have a “minimal impact on the carbon emissions of Middle-earth,” say scientists at the University of Cape Town, and they can prove it too!
The scientists from the Climate System Analysis Group modelled Smaug from a scaled-up Komodo Dragon and theorised that the dragon would use methane for fuel. They then calculated its carbon footprint. They worked out that a single dragon might produce 1.43 kg of methane a day: that’s 260.6 tons in a life of 500 years. Seems a lot doesn’t it, until they tell us that they estimate the Riders of Rohan’s horses would produce the same amount of emissions as 68 dragons! They say that, “Given the dragon species’ status as an apex predator, we can conclude that their likely efficiency of combustion, coupled with low population numbers resulted in minimal impact on carbon emissions in Middle-earth.”
Environmental scientist, Professor Ian Colbeck from the University of Essex told me, “It’s an interesting article with some appropriate science. It does show that, overall, dragons would have had little, if any, impact on Middle-earth carbon emissions. Emissions from horses easily outweigh those from dragons and, as the authors point out, the industrialisation of Isengard, the deforestation of Fangorn forest, and the volcanic activity of Mount Doom would have had a much greater impact on total emissions.”