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How much does animal agriculture and eating meat contribute to global warming?

What the science says...

Animal agriculture is responsible for 1318% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally, and less in developed countries (e.g. 3% in the USA).  Fossil fuel combustion for energy and transportation is responsible for approximately 64% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally, and more in developed countries (e.g. 80% in the USA).

Climate Myth...

Animal agriculture and eating meat are the biggest causes of global warming

Becoming Vegan or cutting down on your own personal meat consumption could be the single most effective action that you can do to help reduce green house gas emissions.
Planet Earth Herald

The burning of fossil fuels for energy and animal agriculture are two of the biggest contributors to global warming, along with deforestation.  Globally, fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about 64% of human greenhouse gas emissions, with deforestation at about 18%, and animal agriculture between 13% and 18% (estimates from the World Resources Institute, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and Pitesky et al. 2009).

Global GHG Emissions - AG

Global human greenhouse gas emissions breakdown, from the World Resources Institute.

So, animal agriculture and meat consumption are significant contributors to global warming, but far less so than fossil fuel combustion.  Moreover, fossil fuels are an even bigger contributor to the problem in developed countries, which use more energy and have increased livestock production efficiency (Pitesky et al. 2009).  For example, in the United States, fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about 80% of total greenhouse gas emissions as compared to about 3% from animal agriculture (estimates from the World Resources Institute and Pitesky et al. 2009).

US GHG emissions flowchart

US human greenhouse gas emissions flowchart, from the World Resources Institute.

How does animal agriculture cause global warming?

One of the main ways in which the livestock sector contributes to global warming is through deforestation caused by expansion of pasture land and arable land used to grow feedcrops.  Overall, animal agriculture is responsible for about 9% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions globally (UN FAO).

Animal agriculture is also a significant source of other greenhouse gases.  For example, ruminant animals like cattle produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  The livestock sector is responsible for about 37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions (mainly from manure), globally (UN FAO).

Beef is a bigger problem than other sources of meat

Producing beef requires significantly more resources (e.g. land, fertilizer, and water) than other sources of meat.  As ruminant animals, cattle also produce methane that other sources (e.g. pigs and chickens) don't.

Eschel et al. 2014 estimated that producing beef requires 28 times more land, 6 times more fertilizer and 11 times more water than producing pork or chicken.  As a result, the study estimated that producing beef releases 4 times more greenhouse gases than a calorie-equivalent amount of pork, and 5 times as much as an equivalent amount of poultry.

Eating vegetables produces lower greenhouse gas emissions yet.  For example, potatoes, rice, and broccoli produce approximately 3–5 times lower emissions than an equivalent mass of poultry and pork (Environmental Working Group 2011).  The reason is simple – it's more efficient to grow a crop and eat it than to grow a crop, feed it to an animal as it builds up muscle mass, then eat the animal.

Environmental Working Group GHG Lifecycle Assessment of foods

Greenhouse gas lifecycle assessment for common proteins and vegetables (EWG 2011).

How do the numbers get misrepresented?

There are often suggestions that going vegan is the most important step people can take to solve the global warming problem.  While reducing meat consumption (particularly beef and lamb) reduces greenhouse gas emissions, this claim is an exaggeration.

An oft-used comparison is that globally, animal agriculture is responsible for a larger proportion of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions (14-18%) than transportation (13.5%).  While this is true, transportation is just one of the many sources of human fossil fuel combustion.  Electricity and heat generation account for about 25% of global human greenhouse gas emissions alone.

Moreover, in developed countries where the 'veganism will solve the problem' argument is most frequently made, animal agriculture is responsible for an even smaller share of the global warming problem than fossil fuels.  For example, in the USA, fossil fuels are responsible for over 10 times more human-caused greenhouse gas emissions than animal agriculture.

That's not to minimize the significant global warming impact of animal agriculture (as well as its other adverse environmental impacts), especially from beef and lamb, but it's also important not to exaggerate its contribution or minimize the much larger contribution of fossil fuels.

Last updated on 28 September 2017 by dana1981. View Archives

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 52:

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for putting things in perspective.

    However, it seems like this confirms part of the "Myth" you wished to debunk:

    "Becoming Vegan or cutting down on your own personal meat consumption could be the single most effective action that you can do to help reduce green house gas emissions."

    Short of going off the grid, that is. You have compared emissions from agriculture to emissions from the fossil fuel industry. Since your case seems to be built for the US where much power/electricty comes from fossil fuel, a person can hardly act so as to stop using fossil fuels. Even by selling their cars. However, they can stop eating meat.

    So it seems, although the impact of animal agriculture is sometimes overblown, eating a plant-based diet would still be the single most effective action an individual could undertake, short of going off the grid. No?

  2. "eating a plant-based diet would still be the single most effective action an individual could undertake, short of going off the grid."

    If you look at where the individual contributions of energy use are (eg the MacKay analysis for UK is here - I have done similar for NZ), you would see that food and even going off grid arent that big a deal (particularly if you use non-FF heating). Getting off the plane is probably the biggest saving you can make. Finding ways to get out of the car would be next followed by sharply reducing your consumption of stuff.

  3. Thanks for this great discussion.

    Check out this Eshel paper-Climate impact of beef: an analysis considering multiple time scales and production methods without use of global warming potentials- R T Pierrehumbert1 and G Eshel2

    Published 4 August 2015 • © 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd • Environmental Research Letters, Volume 10, Number 8

    http://m.iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/8/085002/meta

    The study conclusions include that certain forms of pastured beef have substantially lower climate impact than feedlot systems.

    To full address climate change impacts, we need to consider different types of livestock management — for their threats and potential benefits — ghg emissions reductions/sequestration as well as natural water storage, flood mitigation, and biodiversity enhancement...

    It seems we should eat much less beef and when we do eat it, we need to it the right kind...

    Also, my understanding is that all agriculture (not just livestock) GHG emissions are estimated at 15% of global total by FAO 2013; and 13% by UNEP 2015.

    Response:

    [PS] fixed link.

  4. I'm concerned with the presentation of this page http://www.skepticalscience.com/how-much-meat-contribute-to-gw.html.

    The Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report found that a proper and full accounting of GHG emissions pegs Land Use at 55% of emissions using 20 year GWP. As you'd be aware 20 yr GWP is significant, given the perilous state of many climatic system and stocks of ice etc. Even using 100 year GWP which tends to obscure the effects in near term on climate systems of methane and black carbon it will soon be at 100 years,

    The major contributing factors were found to be land clearing (often cyclical), savannah burning (repeated) and centric fermentation. This would make it likely that GHG emissions in North and South America might be in that vicinity given the large amount of Amazonian and other old growth forest clearing going on to grow cattle and soy crops to feed north american cattle.

    90% of that 55% of national emissions using 20yr GWP is associated with livestock ruminants, mostly the large extended zone pastural operations in northern Australia, mostly for cattle.

    By presenting this argument using standard UNFCCC accounting which majorly obscures, re-assigns and ignores emissions and removal of sequestration sources associate with Land Use Sector you are in fact perpetuating a myth not debunking one.

    To my best knowledge the ZCA Land Use Report was peer reviewed and supervised within MSSI (University of Melbourne) and has not be refuted in the literature. Nor has it's conclusion that 55% of Australia's national GHG emissions using 20 yr PWG are from the Land Use Sector. I'd ask the you rename these pages to be less pejorative and more in line with the science and debate if you want to call it that.

    Given that much of the old growth forest clearing going on in the world to produce more ruminnent grazing pasture and crops to feed ruminents and  animals in general, and that this OGF is the greatest CO2 sequester known to man, and that it's impossible to regain the sequestration levels once OGFs are logged, even after a century, it's doubly important that land use sector emissions be seen as the major problem, perhaps the greatest problem in the short term for GHGs reduction (ignoring the politics of livestock lobby vs ff lobby), then renaming this Page and the old version is required. 

    Alastair Leith
    Climate Activist and Campaigner

     

  5. Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report

  6. The Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report (link fixed) mentioned above:

    "A number of agricultural industries are among the most emissions intensive activities in Australia. Beef production, for example, is more emissions intensive than aluminium and steel production. Emissions from agriculture are even more significant when the impact of activities is calculated over 20 years instead of the more common 100-year accounting approach. When considered from this perspective, agricultural emissions could account for as much as 54% of Australia’s total emissions."

  7. Yes, the 100 horizon for methane is whistling in the dark, presuming there are no non-linearities and tipping points in the near future.

  8. OK, I have a question... So, supposedly not eating meat will reduce carbon emissions and help reduce global warming correct ? But so far it seems the main way animal agriculture contributes to global warming is through deforestation for feedcrops and pasture land. If more humans start eating plants instead of animals however, while the need for pastures and feed crop land will reduce, won't the need for farmland to grow all these in demand plants just increase ? For example the U.S is already unable to produce enough fruits and veggies to feed its citizens and relies on other countries as a supplement..if the decrease in land needed for animals doesn't match up to the increase in land needed for plant farming , won't this result in even more land cleared in other places to keep up with supply and demand (aka money to be made ? )

  9. Theresab @8, this SKS page discusses the issue directly.  Essentially, deforrestation contributes more to global warming than does agriculture (18.2% vs 13.5%), but most deforrestation is driven by the lumber industry, not land clearing for agriculture.  From agriculture, the major contributors are agricultural soils (6%) and livestock and manure (5.1%).  All percentages are of global totals in CO2eq, from 2000 data.

    Crops require far less land area than does pasturing cattle.  Indeed, in general, you will require 10 times as much land area for animals as you will for plants for the same total food production.  That said, some area on which livestock is grazed is not suitable for cropping due to inadequate rainfall or other factors. 

  10. " For example the U.S is already unable to produce enough fruits and veggies to feed its citizens and relies on other countries as a supplement.."

    This is a ridiculous assertion. The single greatest reason USA imports fruit and vegetables is cost. Paying workers in Sth American nations $1 a day rather than US workers $12 an hour or whatever minimum wage is in USA today (although many workers in southern states are migrant workers from Mexico who are paid less than minimum wage). In Australia orchardists are regualrly removing fruit orchards when canneries are closing, if demand for their fruit and vege went up, production would go up. Meanwhile livestock production is subsidised by way of no price on the extensive emissions, over access to waterways and so on.

  11. The amount of agricutural land devoted to fruit and vegetables globally is trivially small compared with the vast domains of rangelands for grazing and to a much lesser extent, cropping areas.

  12. @Tom Curtis, almost all land clearing (and cyclical clearing) in Australia is for grazing ruminent livestock, themselves a huge emissions source. In nations where logging occurs (I'm thinking Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil,…) the logging is just a more profitable way to clear the land than burning it off. If it was most cost effective to burn it off then they'd do that, they often do both in Indonesia and the fires are so vast the smoke travels to other countries and creates air quality health impacts. They are clearing the land for livestock principlaly in Sth American amazon region and crops to feed their livestock (like soy beans). In SE Asia they're often clearing for vast palm oil plantations. It's all about agricuture, if it ewas about logging timber they'd be harvesting it sustaniably and returning logged areas to forest production. They aren't.

  13. The more we eat, the more we eat, the more we need to increase the amount of animals. And from the document, it is said that the cow has a large amount of gaseous emissions. The more the glass is, the more likely it will be the greenhouse effect. But the industry is another factor in greenhouse gases, but methane emissions have led to clean gas (http://faculty.college-prep.org/~bernie/). sciproject / project / Kingdoms / Bacteria3 / methanogens.htm)

    The responsible animal industry has the second highest potential for methane to make clean energy.

  14. The issue is clearly what type of animal husbandry we are talking about. Managed properly Beef production can be the most effect sink, or improperly managed a very significant emissions source.

    All depends if the CAFO feedlot model is used or not.

    “The number one public enemy is the cow. But the number one tool that can save mankind is the cow. We need every cow we can get back out on the range. It is almost criminal to have them in feedlots which are inhumane, antisocial, and environmentally and economically unsound.” Allan Savory

  15. Red Baron, this is a difficult thing. On one side of this issue, prairie style beef grazing creates a good long term carbon sink. Meat is an excellent source of protein.

    On the other side of the issue, meat is an inefficient form of calories compared to crops and has a significant carbon footprint ( but as you say it depends how its farmed). Whats more, a growing population will put pressure on available land, and this will particularly include converting areas of beef grazing to crops.

    The way out of the dilemma is this: If you want your cows, you better be promoting smaller human population size!

  16. No nigelj, you are wrong there. The current factory farming style of animal husbandry is labor efficient but not land efficient or energy efficient or even cost efficient. Overall it is mostly inefficient.

    Converting to regenerative ag in this case increases food output on less land at a lower cost and higher profit and improves that land rather than degrades it.

    We could easily support far more population, not less.

  17. Red Baron @16, I'm pretty sure you would get more calories per acre (or hectare)  from crop land farming, or chicken farming, as against grasslands cattle farming or indeed any conceivable form of cattle farming, no matter how efficient. The following article and research sums it up. Cattle have to eat a lot of food stocks or grasses, and burn much of it off in energy. I can't see how that would possibly change no matter how the farming is done.

    However grasslands and beef cattle farming are important as a carbon sink, thats the other side of the equation. If we want to preserve them, higher population pressure cannot help.

    Answer me a question. Why does the world need more people? Doesn't the environmental, economic, and social evidence suggest we have more than enough people ?

  18. Nigelij,

     Here is what you are missing:  Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say

    Now what do you suppose can regenerate those highly degraded croplands? You guessed it, properly managed livestock. Completely unfit for crops yet it certainly not only can be used to provide high quality food, the production of food by grazing can if done right heal the land enough that once again it can become arable! in this case it is clear. Animals always produce more because you can't produce crops there anymore at all. The land became "farmed out".

    You remove all animal husbandry and this very important tool is lost. Then we are locked into the slow slide into desertification and ultimately a crash of all human civilization as farming ends. That's not as far away as you think actually. Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues

    But what about land still capable of producing crops?

    Read that carefully. It says "IF  soil degradation continues" emphasis on the "if". And how do we reverse this trend of soil degradation? By properly integrating animal husbandry back on the farm. When you do that correctly you produce far more calories per acre than without.

    Cant see it? Look here from Australia:

    Why pasture cropping is such a Big Deal

    Read that carefully. See what is going on? The crop is still there, but you get a bonus of forages when the land isn't producing a crop! Whether sheep or cows is irrelevant. The point is that you gain extra food production you would otherwise not had, and restore fertility to the land simultaneously.

    So you get X yields PLUS the extra yields from animals.

    Same goes for many other types of animal husbandry done properly. Culls and scraps being fed to chickens and pigs, goats eating brush and weeds instead of herbicides use, Ducks weeding between rice, the list is very long. In all cases though the integrated farm produces more calories per acre sustainably than crop production alone. Always!

    Either it produces more because you can't even grow crops at all, or... it produces more because you use the animals to cycle waste material and turn it into fertility making crops grow better and gain a bonus of additional animal foods AT THE SAME TIME.

  19. Reb Baron @18,  ok those are good points, particularly the use of low quality arable land for cattle, and going back more to mixed farming, that  combines crops, chickens and pigs, and this is a good sustainable multi purpose model. 

    I stress test ideas, to see if they stand up to being poked at,  it doesn't mean I'm promoting vegetariansim or anything. Increasingly I'm becoming suspicious of any extreme solutions to most forms of problems. Eliminating all meat consumption completely seems as dubious as this very high meat Atkins diet. But I digress.

    However I think you are still left with the same population problems.

  20. @ wideEyedPupil #4: Your points remain unchallenged. I read thru the ZCA report (linked HERE), and I was unable to find any statement that substantiates your text from #4: "The Zero Carbon Australia Land Use Report found that a proper and full accounting of GHG emissions pegs Land Use at 55% of emissions using 20 year GWP". In fact, when I read the summary to this report in the 1st paragraph of the site linked above, I read the following text: "The UNFCCC National Inventory Report suggests that sources of land use emissions, such as land clearing for agriculture and enteric (intestinal) fermentation from digestive processes in livestock, contribute 15% of national emissions." If I am reading this correctly, this seems to disagree with your statement. In addition, I glossed over the body of the whole ZCA report, and was not able to find any text indicating that land-use & agriculture accounts for "55% of emissions". The ZCA report link you provided in #5 no longer works. Could you provide an updated link with location of page to back up your "55% of emissions" text. Thank you very much!

  21. Below are two passages quoted in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. The first is by Charles Hallmark from Health Freedom News:

    If it were not for beef, the United States could produce perhaps 25% of the small grain it does. . .. The factors that would limit our production is winter kill and tillering.

    First, winter kill happens when small grains, such as wheat or oats, get into what is called the joint stage. Grain planted in the fall sprouts and grows fairly rapidly. Once it sends up the stem that the grain head grows on, and it makes the first joint in that stem, if it gets about 10 degrees Fahrenheit it will kill the plant.

    To prevent this from happening, cattlemen and wheat farmers graze small grains with cattle. Without cattle grazing, the wheat, all wheat planted as well as oats, would have to be planted in the spring. Usually, moisture conditions remain too wet for this to work well.

    Without beef you can kiss goodbye probably to 50% of the earth's population.

    Another misconception is water supposedly taken up by cattle. Water weighs approximately eight pounds per gallon. A one thousand-pound steer, if 100% water, would be 125 gallons of water. Where is the rest of the thousands of gallons of water? If handled properly, the waste water from cattle is a very valuable resource. It removes nitrate nitrogens and ammoniacal nitrogens and returns them to the soil. Nitrate nitrogens make forage, and ammoniacal nitrogens make seeds and flowers. Farmers pay big money for these in bag form to apply to the land.

    And the second is by Mark Purdey from The Nutcracker Suite:

    One of the most nutty, stereotype fallacies. . .is the vegetarian claim that crop husbandry is less chemically and energy intensive than livestock farming. Whilst this is true in consideration of the intensive grain-fed livestock units, the traditional mixed farming unit raises livestock for meat and milk off extensively managed, low-input grassland systems; and each acre of well-managed grassland can produce four harvests a season of high-protein forage utilizing its all-inclusive clover plants as a green manure for fixing free atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. Whereas, an arable cropping system will only yield one or two crops per season and will largely remain reliant on the inputs of artificial fertilizer for its nitrogen source; one ton of which requires ten tons of crude oil in the manufacturing process. . .. Well-managed grassland is rarely sprayed with pesticide/fungicide/herbicide, not even on the most chemically orientated of farms. Yet virtually all vegetable and arable systems receive an average of ten chemical sprayings annually through from the initial seed stage to the final storage of the produce. Vegetables are so heavily sprayed that the more perceptive elements of the medical establishment have actually linked the victims of a mystery, novel neurological syndrome to the fact that they are all vegetarians in common. One team led by Dr. David Ratner from the Central Emek Hospital, Afula, in Israel, bloodtested several isolated cases of those suffering from this syndrome and found that various organophosphate pesticide residues intensively present in their vegetarian diet were responsible. Once the victims were convinced that they should return to a diet including meat and milk products, their symptoms and abnormal blood enzyme levels normalized rapidly.

    Response:

    [db] Off-topic snipped.

  22. Ben, interesting but this would be a lot more convincing if backed with some peer-reviewed science. Some of the sweeping statement "Without beef you can kiss goodbye probably to 50% of the earth's population" is pretty hard to support. This appears to be an extrapolation of NA farming practice (7.5% of world wheat production by FAO 2014) to rest of world. This isnt a farming practise here, and I suspect it also isnt the practice in major producers like EU,China,India, Russia.

    The question over water usage looks like a straw man. The water issues around cattle here focus on irrigation of pasture mostly. eg 1000 litres of water needed to produce 1 litre of milk. 15400 litres for 1kg of beef (eg see here). That is very high compared to plant-based protein sources.

    I do not contest the value of well-managed, low-input rangeland but at first glance your sources are unconvincing and smack of rhetoric.

  23. I'm wondering if anyone who has access to it has reviewed this report, which suggests that eliminating beef could get most of the way toward meeting President Obama's 2020 emissions goals that he announced in 2009.

  24. Sorry, but this is not true. Read this: 

    LINK1

    Global meat industy has a very important role on greenhouse gas. 

    And if you have this in mind: 

    one kilo meat cost approximately 15000 litre water. - LINK2

    How many meat we eat globally world wide? 

    read this article:

    LINK3

    So please don't say that the meat industry is not responsible for the  greenhouse gas that is produced every year. 

    That fact is that the meat industry is responsible for more then the car industry and the airplane industry together!

     

    Response:

    [DB] Your first link does not materially disagree with the OP of this post, and where it does your link cites older sources than does the OP of this post.

    Shortened and hyperlinked URLs breaking page formatting.  Sloganeering snipped.

  25. And read this article:

    LINK

    Response:

    [DB] Shortened and hyperlinked URL.

  26. Since there is a very much new analysis of the impact of meat eating and dietary choices on global warming perhpas you should update this section: see Lancet https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT  Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems

  27. @26 Barbara,

     It's easy to see that the Lancet links you posted contains papers that show a completely naive and unrealistic understanding of agriculture and the primary food systems of the planet.

    It's full of doctors trying to explain to farmers why their food is unhealthy and it is pretty ridiculous actually.

    Just for an example[1]:

    "(1)
    Seek international and national commitment to shift towards healthy diets. The scientific targets set by this Commission provide guidance for the necessary shift, which consists of increasing consumption of plant-based foods and substantially reducing consumption of animal source foods. Research has shown that this shift will reduce environmental effects and improve health outcomes. This concerted commitment can be achieved by investment in public health information and sustainability education, and improved coordination between departments of health and environment.
    (2)
    Re-orient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food. Production should focus on a diverse range of nutritious foods from biodiversity-enhancing food production systems rather than increased volume of a few crops, most of which are used for animal production."

     

    So here they are with the very laudable goal of improving agriculture, but then emediately hamstringing any effort to restore agricultural land by requiring a reduction of animal agriculture. You can't accomplish goal 2 by following goal 1. It sabotages any attempt to actually improve agriculture to sustainable systems. 

    Agriculture became unhealthy and unsustainable when the animals were removed from the farm and started being raised in CAFOs and feedlots instead. The land degrades because animal impact is replaced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Reducing animals even more is not the solution. The solution is returning the animals to the land where they belong.

    (3) ...This change would entail reducing yield gaps on cropland, radical improvements in the efficiency of fertiliser and water use, recycling phosphorus, redistributing global use of nitrogen and phosphorus, implementing climate mitigation options, including changes in crop and feed management, and enhancing biodiversity within agricultural systems.

    As you can see this fundamental lack of understanding continues in 3 as well. All of the goals presented being far more efficiently attained by animals rather than inorganic chemicals. Which also results in both yield increases and quality increases.

    4 has parts equally as bad.

    management policies aimed at restoring and re-foresting degraded land

    Ignoring the fact that animals are critical in restoring land. This failure to understand biological systems and the requirement for animal impact to restore degraded land is why we have such disasters like the California and Oregon forest fires. It's poor management designed by people who have no idea what they are talking about, and yet they want "strong governmental control"...exactly what caused such disasters to begin with.

    I could go on an on, but to summarize:

    We can all agree the current system is set up for failure and an important part of the causes of AGW. However, the solutions presented are not a solution at all. In some ways making it even worse.

  28. Skeptical Science, you mentioned “... less in developed countries (e.g. 3% in the USA)”. But how much of the meat consumed in developed countries comes from undeveloped countri?

  29. Depended a bit on your definition of "underdeveloped" for both exporters and importers.

    Export trade accounts for about 10% of meat production. Across all meats, exports (mt) 2017 are: (Source)

    World 32711
    United States 7718
    Brazil 7023
    EU 4983
    Australia 1905
    Canada 1897
    India 1736
    Thailand 1113
    New Zealand 991
    China 590
    Argentina 554

    and top Importers are:

    China 5423
    Japan 3635
    United States 2195
    Mexico 2167
    Viet Nam 1667
    Korea Rep of 1317
    Russian Fed. 1290
    EU 1286
    Saudi Arabia 976
    Canada 762

  30. Another thing that's important to note is the short life of methane in the atmosphere which tends to be misrepresented when GWP100 is used to represent its effects. If cattle herd sizes remain the same over the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere, they will maintain the same amount of additional methane in the atmosphere year on year (the amount of cattle in Europe and North America is lower than it was in the 1960's whilst India has fewer cattle than it did in the 1980s). In terms of their contribution to warming, this, in a very simplistic sense, is equivalent to a closed power station.

  31. AsI am a little confused as to how animal agriculture is responsible for 13–18% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally, and only 3% in the USA, when later you say “the livestock sector is responsible for about 37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions (mainly from manure), globally. It sure seems like the greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than 13-18% with the latter figures.
    In the comments many people claimed regenerative agriculture would work, but I see in a later post about Savory’s unsupported idea about regenerative agriculture, you address why it would not be beneficial. It’s easy to see that smaller, grass fed cows who take longer to grow and fatten means it will take more cows to feed the same number of people, and yes, more methane into the air, and more land used, more water poisoned.
    What I do not understand is why intelligent climate scientists are not urging others to go vegan. This idea of “reducing” meat consumption means that people will maybe switch out one beef meal to a chicken or fish meal. With our oceans losing fish, our chickens, pigs and cows using antibiotics, the animal agriculture requiring more land, more Amazon deforestation, more waste in oceans, etc., environmentalists should not ignore that there are serious environmental problems from animal agriculture. Look at the environmental marches – you see kids eating hamburgers, ice cream and hot dogs while holding their “reduce paper” signs (made of paper). You see large environmental leaders suggesting we “reduce meat a little.” Why say that, when getting rid of meat and dairy altogether would make a much more livable planet?  (Comments that usually follow are angry people saying they won't give up meat because it is their choice.)
    People protect their cut up animal parts, even after watching the horrid abuse on CATO farms AND “humane” farms and unimaginable treatment in slaughterhouses or from homemade slaughtering. People start pretending they eat all their meals from a farm that looks like a farm sanctuary, and where the animals are killed in an instant. That is a fantasy.
    Next farmers will transition to “grass fed” farms and then we will break it to them that it is not sustainable, and they will have to transition again to a sustainable non-animal farm. This takes valuable time and money.  We don't have this kind of time!  Ideas like "regenerative agriculture" are making us stall in what we must do. 

  32. BarbNoon1 , you already know the answer to your question.

    And whether the "food from animals" industry is responsible for 20% or 10% of GHG emissions, is largely irrelevant to your point.

    The highest priority for the world, is to bring global warming to a halt.  For the sake of all  animals as well as us humans.   And you know that swinging the appropriately-large  proportion of citizens to veganism (or near-veganism) would take many generations.

    The scientists are having such slow success battling against the "Pro-CO2" lobby . . . and yet you want them to open a second battle-front in this hard-fought war?   History teaches you it would be a most unwise move.

    Rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly ~ any major push by scientists to promote veganism in connection with AGW, would result in the severe undermining of the core climate message.   The Pro-CO2 lobby/propagandists would see to it, with glee.

    BarbNoon1 , you know that.

    And when you have simmered down, I suspect you will realize that the best & fastest way to achieve your own aim, is to use a subtle & indirect approach.  Low profile.  The long game.  (Not so emotionally satisfying for you . . . but it is the practical optimum method.)

  33. Eclectic, I disagree that I must "simmer down," "be subtle and indirect," and keep a "low profile."  But thanks for trying to give me what you think is good advice.  
    I am upset about climate change and you should be too, but perhaps you think I am upset simply because of animals, and we certainly know there is no justification for that!  
    However, let's not quibble anymore.  I expected a "Skeptical Science" administrator to answer my first statement, but I made an error above and do not need it answered.  I thought the "37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions” above was about the United States, so it seemed way too large for just 3% US GHG emissions in the U.S. However, it says, plain as day, that the figure was “globally” and not “U.S.” I was pretty fatigued last night, but sometimes my brain just refuses to see what I am starting at.
    No, I did not know the answer, Eclectic. Since you said that twice, I will answer it twice.  I did not know the answer. 
    I also do not agree with your answer to only talk about fossil fuels.  I agree to talk about fossil fuels, but not JUST about fossil fuels.  If a man has a heart attack and a slow-growing cancer, the doctor does not tell the man to take medicine for his heart attack, but not tell him to take medicine for his cancer just because the doctor surmises another heart attack will kill him before the cancer. He treats both of them, he gives the truth, he explains the risks and he hopes the patient will comply with his recommendations.
    I can do all the cutting down of leaving lights on, keeping the thermostat down, and writing my representatives about doing something about climate change, but I cannot afford a new car, much less an electric or hybrid one.  But I can eat no meat and dairy with every meal and every snack.
    It is easy once you become determined. With all the damage that animal agriculture is doing (review the original post above as well as my post) I will repeat the statement that environmentalists should be vegan, should be talking about veganism, and should do a positive post on that subject to point out all the ways it can help, without it sandwiched between trying to diminish it, and most of the readers thinking it means it is not important enough to deal with.  I am sure they think their readers will do some heavy thinking about their articles, but it doesn't always reflect that way in the comments section.  
    No, it will not take several generations for a good share of the world to go vegan. The UK is far ahead of the U.S., so if you are in the U.S., you may not be aware of the daily food additions and the number of people trying veganism in other parts of the world.  We vegans have a lot of plans (but we remain low key, subtle, and we have a long plan).  
    I do not see the need for baby steps – most people reading this are adults – take adult steps.
    I appreciate the article above, but Cowspiracy has always stated what exact comparison they were making with the animal agriculture to transportation, and they have not changed that post. Skeptical Science has clarified it, stating 3% is U.S., but also stating that 9% of deforestation is from animal agriculture, and many other damages, that show we should be talking about answers to the fossil fuel issue AS WELL AS answers to the issues caused by animal agriculture.

  34. [Apologies for my long post.  Skippable, because not overflowing with pearls of wisdom.]

    BarbNoon1 , thank you for your reply.  And I do appreciate your points of the ethical and environmental aspects of veganism, and I wish you well (though I don't "get" the full Vegans' opposition to the ovo-lactarian diet, especially regarding children).

    I hope you do keep a low profile.  For analogies, there's the old saying:  "Too many cooks spoil the broth".   Admittedly it's a rather poor analogy . . . but I am sure you'll understand the relevant aspect of the analogy.   Your own medical analogy can be somewhat deficient ~ while true in some cases, yet there are other cases where patients react poorly when hit with several bits of bad news at once.  Where they deal with things best if information is presented to them over time, and in a sequential prioritized manner.

    At the heart of what I was saying, is that the climate scientists should speak up about the need for (gradual) cessation of fossil fuels.  That is the highest priority.

    They should not (at least for several decades) even mention veganism.  In the same way, Vegans should mention ethical aspects and should not mention global warming.  Each group should stay in their own Public Relations sphere.

    As I said, it would be counterproductive to combine the messages ~ because the blowback from the Pro-CO2 lobby/propagandists would be huge.

    The same propagandists would ramp up the (not-new) idea that veganism is (to Americans) a "Left Wing" lifestyle . . . leading down the slippery slope to Ungodly Socialism (=Communism) and to the overthrow of Sacred Free Market Capitalism & the Constitution, and to the loss of Liberties, and to the installation of Tyranny, and to (most heinous sin of all) the Increase of Taxes.   Gasp.

    Well, enough humor ~ but BarbNoon1 , you know that's sort of how it would be stated and/or implied, as they welded AGW and veganism into a single political threat.

    #

    Yet,  Vegans of the world ~ time is on your side.  A high percentage of the world population is now urban-living, with food coming increasingly in packaged supermarket form, without any of the dirt-under-the-fingernails  aspects involved in killing & preparing.   While most people are omnivorous and like cooked meat, there is an increasing squeamishness present, which the Vegan lobby can work on.   Nor should meat-lovers despair, for the food scientists are gaining expertise in giving plant protein a "meaty" flavor & texture.   And on the horizon, is vat-grown muscle-like cell culture (though possibly that approach may be short-circuited by super-hi-tech GM soy, etc.)

    All that I ask is that Vegans keep off the AGW bandwagon, and (changing analogies) that they not try to push two barrows at the same time.  Because they would almost certainly (and unintentionally) sabotage the climate-change barrow.

    And there's a danger it could facilitate the Pro-CO2 lobby in creating "False Flag" veganistic operations, as part of its propaganda efforts.  (Even the true Vegans would eventually lose out over that.)   There's already enough of trolling & False Flagging in action by the anti-science propagandists.

  35. Alan, CH4 converts to CO2 ....

  36. Unless you make eating meat illegal there's no way it can make a significant impact because it's consumption is inelastic. Put up the price and people will just eat less vegetables and smoke a few less cigarettes!! They might even refuse to work efficiently and give the ever expanding Governments who think own them less taxes to feed on? 

    Basically, I can't see it being the first port-of-call. 

    Population Growth is the elephant in the room and mass immigration is just a confounding factor of that. Sure, it can be argued as you import those who didn't eat much meat to the first world where they will inevitably become bigger consumers of meat then emissions will increase but that aint the fault of the consuming voter of the host country who never invited them in the first place.

    It surely does contribute a lot, but to say Population Growth and Mass Immigration don't push it is a corruption of thought.

  37. You mention children and eggs and milk, and I will not teach you about health in detail here, except to say that all American children who follow the Standard American Diet by age 10 have striations of fat on their hearts - yes, the start of heart disease.  Milk has hormones, and Casein and IGF-1 growth hormones can CAUSE cancer, and even spread it.  Eggs are high in cholesterol and have too much choline which can lead to heart disease.  I spend hours researching and teaching health. 
    Now, why in the world would I just talk about ethics, when veganism causes such damage to the environment.  Sprayed ammonia from farms can travel up to 300 miles and land in water where they cause algal blooms and fish kills.  It's pretty hard to get away from the pollution when a 200 milking cows produces the same amount of urine and feces as 8,400 people. 

    You tell me to leave the global warming subject alone, yet, in climate change marches, subjects like light bulbs, turning off water and recycling are seen.  I thought you just wanted to see fossil fuel marchers!  I understand what you are trying to say, and I will think more on it, but when it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, it should be talked about as an important amount of climate change! 
    Yes, I agree with Bozzza that so many of our problems come with over-population.  Are you going to tell Bozzza to keep a low profile and not let population control enter the climate change conversation?  All of it should be in the conversation.  We definitely need worldwide readily available birth control for women and equal rights! 
    All these subjects are interconnected.  Don't worry, I won't be holding a "Go Vegan" sign at climate change protests.  I work in a different way.

    I do need to learn more about what we can do about fossil fuels, but it always seems like it is up to a very stubborn government that ends up doing nothing.  I do talk about CO2 when writing representatives and when explaining the "driver" of climate change to other people. 
    I don't even see a problem.  I just think you are one of the delayers when it comes to cleaning up this environment by eating a truly sustainable diet.  

     

    Response:

    [PS] Excess white space removed. Please remember to support assertions (many of them in first paragraph) with references. Otherwise comments may be deleted for sloganeering.

  38. Okay.  You may have to copy and paste these into your browser
    1.  "Too much choline . . . ."
    http://www.clevelandheartlab.com/blog/choline-tmao-heart-health/
    2.  "Heart disease in children by age 10.  If you don't want to watch the video, there is a transcript at lower left.
    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/heart-disease-starts-in-childhood/
    3.  Dairy causes cancer.  This video is heavily sourced with peer reviewed articles all the way through.

    https://youtu.be/HXWaCfWi1_U

    I am satisfied with the discussion we've had.

  39. One more.  As far as "grass fed" and "sustainable," this article does the math and determines that grass fed and grazing are not sustainable.
    https://sentientmedia.org/is-grass-fed-cattle-a-sustainable-farming-practice/

  40. BarbNoon1 @37 & following:

    While I agree with much of what you say, nevertheless there are many disputable points.

    All American children on standard diet have "striations of fat on their hearts"  by around age 10 ?   Did you mean so-called "fatty streaks" on the interior of their coronary arteries (which would apply to those with a genetic proclivity) . . . or mean merely fatty deposits on the exterior of the heart [as on the bowel ~ a matter largely caused by obesity] . . .  obesity being known as a promoter of heart disease.

    "Milk has hormones, and casein [... etcetera]" . . . but this is starting to sound like a Gish Gallop.   And you are drawing a very long bow indeed.  I did watch your "Dairy Causes Cancer"  video.  Sorry Barb, but it's very poor science, and also ignores the Big Picture.  The cited papers on medical studies ~ show the typical weaknesses of studies of humans, as (a) being poorly-controlled, and (b) making little allowance for the vast number of confounding factors present in complex biological systems.   All a ripe field for cherry-picking, too !

    "Eggs high in cholesterol" . . . yes, that was thought important in the 1960's . . . but scientific understanding has improved since then.   Which you ought  to know.   Please note that my main concern with rejection of ovo-lactarian diet, was in the area of child nutrition.   A vegan diet can be fully nutritious, but you have to be very scientific in following it.  Doubtless you've seen those occasional reports of developmentally-impaired children, whose ignorant parents simply gave the children what they themselves ate, without any allowance for vitB12 & sufficient essential amino acids etcetera.   And then we should mention children in "Third World" nations.

    "Sprayed ammonia" really should be unnecessary in modern scientific organically-based farming.   Nor is it justified to eliminate all  cattle livestock ~ since they can graze on semi-forest and marginal land too poor for most crops.   And you will find on SkS here, some commenters ( IIRC: "RedBaron" ) who indicate that free-range grass-fed cattle can be beneficial by increasing carbon storage in the soil.  Carbon negative!   Sure, overall the cattle (and other livestock) should have their numbers greatly reduced, but not necessarily to zero !

    Bozzza says all sorts of things, and often in a spray of one-liners.  Sometimes he's right, sometimes he's "not so much"  ~ it's as though he doesn't always care to make sense.   But sure, overpopulation is a major problem, which is going to take centuries to correct anyway.   AGW is too urgent a problem for "population reduction" to even be on the same page (and "population reduction" is even more a taboo subject, for most people).   At the end of the day, it's the fossil fuels.

    Barb, let's not get deep into subjects which are Off-topic for this thread.

    The essential point I raised initially, is that the climate scientists should not be pushing veganism.  Not this century, anyway !

  41. Yes, I really want to get out of this conversation, and we are off-topic, but I can't believe you don't know that cholesterol is bad for you!   
    When study results, funded by the dairy industry came out in 2010, Dr. Jeremiah Stamler immediately criticized them, followed by other prominant doctors such as Dr. John McDougall.  Of course, Time Magazine writers did not know that, and they put "Butter is Back" on the cover.  However, the science has not changed. Marketing is just more skillful.  The huge industries repeated the same studies in 2014 in order to look like they had more "evidence," but the truth is, cholesterol still can cause heart disease.  

    https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2014nl/apr/saturatedfat.htm

    We have to be "very scientific" about following a vegan diet? Really?  I have many friends who have been vegan for over 40 years (I guess I have to show my sources, Hope Bohanic, Kim Stallwood, Fiona Oakes and Butterflies Katz are a few.)  Fiona Oakes runs and holds about 7 world records in ultra marathons and eats once a day, at the end of the day after training and then taking care of an entire animal sanctuary - she is 50 and has been vegan since about age 4.  Source?  Running for Good documentary. 

    39% of Americans are deficient in B12.  You'd better be careful about that deficiency!  We can get B12 from plants - there is new evidence that duckweed has tons of B12 and there are four plants found so far that have B12.  The few vegan parents who had children who died starved them!  Just being vegan was not the problem.

    https://www.parabel.com/plant-based-nutrients-parabels-water-lentils-found-to-be-rich-source-of-vitamin-b12/
    If you want the article for Dr. Jeremiah Stamler it is called, "Diet-Heart.  A problematic revisit."  However, I can no long access it - scientific document.  
    https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2000/b12-deficiency-may-be-more-widespread-than-thought/

    Back to topic:  
    Population, what we eat, and how we live are all intertwined in the climate change problem.  If you want a march specifically for fossil fuels, do so.  But most people don't even know the solutions to bring fossil fuels under control, and most people cannot do anything about it themselves, except hold signs in marches or write their representatives.  
    Your opinion differs from mine on what is important.  Eclectic, you made your points and I made mine.  I will not return.  Please try to refrain from "Mansplaining," telling women to be low key, subtle, and repeatedly saying things like, "You really SHOULD know this!"  Obviously, there are things you do not know about as well.  

  42. Forgot this source:  
    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-the-egg-board-designs-misleading-studies/
    I take cherry-flavored B12. 
    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/omnivore-vs-vegan-nutrient-deficiencies-2/

  43. Thanks, BarbNoon1 . . . yes, we are getting well off-topic, and should close our conversation.  Though it has had topical relevance, in that it's emphasized the importance of "climatism" and "veganism" keeping out of each other's way.

    And it has given me some worthwhile mental exercise . . . as well as some amusement ~ e.g. your "mansplaining"  comment.   Surely, Barb, you aren't as very non-PC as to presume  you know my gender?!   And in my "low key, subtle" suggestion, was there any allusion by me to women rather than to vegans generally?   Hummmph !

    You stating "I will not return"  ~ is often a poor move.  You may very well not comment further . . . but everyone knows you are very likely to return to see if I have replied.  Which gives me the last word.  As now :-

    Cholesterol in the diet is unimportant compared with the cholesterol innately produced by the liver ~ and you ought  to know that.  All that business of liver enzymes / genetics / high-density & low-density lipoproteins, etcetera.   Let's call it "personplaining" !

    The absorption of B12 is rather more complex than you seem to think : not merely a matter of "how many micrograms went into my mouth today."   Young children need very careful attention to nutritional requirements to avoid developmental damage as they grow on a vegan diet ~ sadly, some parents think it's just a matter of a shovel plus "X" number of calories / total protein.   If the parents are klutzes, then it's safer to go ovo-lactarian for the children.   Which the prudent parent will do anyway (keeping human evolution in mind ~ and keeping in mind we probably still  don't know everything we ought to, about human nutrition and gut biome).   And the children like it.

    And I refer you back to the general criticism I made of medical research.  Anecdotes are even worse !

  44. Barbnoon1 @39. Coming from a farming family, of course grass fed cattle are sustainable. As long as the paddock is not overstocked the cattle can feed on the grass forever whilst fertilising the paddock.

    if what you really meant is relative productivity per unit area of land compared to other forms of meat production, then that is a different issue. 

    However comparisons of beef to pork and chicken is not a like for like comparison due to vastly different animal husbandry standards. Most chicken is produced in tiny cages, whereas most beef is to use the chicken term "free range" in a paddock. A relevant comparison is free range chicken to beef.

  45. Scaddenp @2 I totally agree. The number of people I know who boldly and loudly advertise their green credentials and then frivolously get on a plane for a holiday, astounds me. Worse still, some go business class which is nearly 3 times the emissions (eg 737 Max 9 has 220 seats for all economy and 43 economy seats are removed to create 16 business class seats for a 2 class service. Refer 737 Max specs)

  46. I made the decision take the heat for returning when I said I was done, because facts matter to me, and “winning” in a discussion is not why I wrote in the comments section in the first place. I was not happy with the continuous “regenerative farming” fallacies that are here in the comments, so I am copying some of my source’s article (that I posted earlier and below).

    “On the smallest scale, one cow requires a minimum of 2 acres of pasture land and 20–30 gallons of water daily. That is, assuming the two acres are fully covered with good grazing land (in some places, cows require more acreage because the pasture isn’t filled out with healthy grass for grazing). Additionally, in the winter months, grain will often have to be purchased. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume optimal efficiency, or 2 acres per cow, assuming no change in the total number of cattle and swine currently consumed in the United States, we would need more than 2.5 billion acres of land. The problem, as it happens, is that there are fewer than 2.3 billion acres in the entire United States, including all the mountains, swamps, deserts, and otherwise unsuitable land areas you can imagine. Alaska alone accounts for 17% percent of the United States’ total acreage. And remember, that 2.5 billion required acreage is only for cattle and swine. Would you like to include the 250 million grass raised turkeys, 7 million sheep, and 8 billion chickens currently consumed each year?

    On the farm neighboring me [author], here in the Dominican Republic, there are 82 head of cattle on 200 acres. The farmer has told me that these 200 acres have reached maximum capacity. That’s about 2.44 acres per cow. It takes two years for a grass-fed cow to reach full maturity, at which point it can be slaughtered for about 450 pounds of flesh. That means my neighbor can expect to produce approximately 36,900 pounds of meat, every two years (82 x 450 = 36,900). He projects that we will have at least 100,000 pounds of organic produce, from our two acres of land, after two years. On two acres of land, over a two year period, one can produce 450 pounds of animal flesh or 100,000 pounds of plant produce, using almost no water, compared to the 20–30 gallons required for each cow, every day.

    Can something be sustainable when it isn’t even feasible?
    https://nutritionstudies.org/grass-fed-beef-a-sustainable-alternative/

    Eclectic, you are skilled at debating and at casting doubt on evidence. When I said you “mansplained,” I was aware you might not be male, but in my fatigue, it was the only word to describe how you treat sincere people.
    I originally said I felt environmentalists should be vegan. I stand by my opinion, and all of you concerned only with CO2 can still be vegan and just talk about CO2. When animal agriculture poisons our waterways, land and air and is not an efficient way to feed the world. It’s not time for a “distribution” excuse - meat is terribly inefficient, and as many as 25,000 people lose their lives every day due to hunger; we need a better system and only veganism will feed the world and allow us to re-wild many areas.

    You claimed that the fertilizer spray of pig waste would be taken care of with regenerative farming, but pig waste (and all animal waste) on the ground also causes environmental issues. https://mission-blue.org/2015/02/whats-the-role-of-mass-animal-agriculture-in-ocean-degradation/

    Here is a video and transcript about heart disease in children. This talks about fatty streaks in arteries. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/heart-disease-starts-in-childhood/ This next video talks about how heart disease may start in the womb. They looked at the arteries of fetuses from mothers with normal cholesterol levels and from pregnant moms with high cholesterol, and fetal arteries from mothers with high cholesterol contained dramatically greater lesions. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/heart-disease-may-start-in-the-womb/

    Last, this article, from the BMJ, tells the harm of dietary cholesterol. 395 ward feeding studies. This is “not too new” or “too small.” And I did post the Framington Study earlier which was large. This study shows that whether you are genetically inclined to have low cholesterol or high cholesterol, the cholesterol you avoid in your diet is important for your health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2125600/

    I am sure you will find everything unworthy. However, I showed why every environmentalist should be vegan (unless you live with no access to grocery stores, or are some rare exception), because eating vegan is the healthy diet that helps the environment the most and I definitely showed why “grass fed, grazing or regenerative farming will not work to feed the population and will still greatly pollute.

    Response:

    [DB] In the absence of confounding factors like associated fat intake, there's no clear relationship solely between dietary cholesterol intake and cardiovascular risk:

    "Evidence from observational studies conducted in several countries generally does not indicate a significant association with cardiovascular disease risk"

    Even interventional studies, while showing mild improvements in some markers, showed no significant outcomes benefit:

    "the findings were not significant for the stronger predictor of CVD risk, LDL cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol concentration"

    Should people make healthier eating choices?  Yes. 

    In the scheme of things, is that action bigger than switching global energy usage from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources?  Not even close.  

    Let's keep this closer to the topic of this post, please.

  47. Barb @46 , please don't feel any heat (metaphorically speaking).  You are most welcome to post.

    My principal objection to your initial comments was that you urged climate scientists to expand their advocacy into the simultaneous advocacy of veganism.   IMO, such action by them (or by anyone  linking climate matters and veganism) would be wrong because counterproductive (to the point of self-sabotage) in the urgent tackling of AGW.

    Your economic arguments are good ~ their main weakness being because based on the assumption that the current methods of "meat production" would continue at present levels (or higher, worldwide).   For all sorts of reasons - some touched on, earlier - it is likely that "farm meat" consumption per capita will decline in the latter half of this century.  But it need not go down to zero, to be ecologically sound.

    Your health/medical arguments are weak in their science ~ but they are a "Motivated Reasoning" consequence of your veganism . . . and there would be little point in me firing torpedoes at them.   Plus, it would be off-topic.

    I shall submerge to 20 fathoms, and switch to electric motors.

  48. I have no difficulty in understanding the critiques of many quacky practices, but the question of what to eat, including the morality of one's diet, is much more difficult as there are many conflicting arguments.  Even science based organizations like the American Dietetic Association, will tout the benefits of vegetarianism, as long as the eater does not neglect B12 and the 9 essential amino acids.  Environmental writer George Monbiot of the UK paper The Guardian (https://www.monbiot.com/2018/04/03/the-day-i-became-a-vegan/) says that becoming a vegan will save the planet.  Reading your statistics above leads to more questions than answers - for example, while stating that animal husbandry only contributes 9% of carbon dioxide, you then go on to state that the greenhouse effect is 20 times stronger for methane than for carbon dioxide.  20 times seems a rather large number, one of such magnitude that it would be difficult to argue that the 1.5 billion cows raised only for meat are not competing rather heftily with the 60% of carbon dioxide caused by the belching of cars, trucks and factories.  Monbiot also states that food companies are now using bacteria to generate believable steaks, sausages and fish.  I can believe that, given how realistic the plant-based burgers are becoming.  While I haven't yet found a plant-based milk that enhances my tea, the plant-based chives cream cheese I just bought is absolutely delish!   There are always problems I have found with people's arguments - the mere fact of making an argument means it is not going to be: "the benefits of this are... and the costs of this are...." - especially when it comes to a problem as severe as climate change.  I also privately (as I never feel sufficiently armed with data to make almost any argument convincing) wonder if the liberal opposition to nuclear power is not also contributing to climate change.  I am a liberal myself but I also know from psychology that liberals and conservatives each have their own biases.  While I am very aware of how the Trump administration is dismantling all environmental laws, would the considerable influence of anti-nuclear energy among liberals which has for real hindered its research and development in Germany, UK, and the States during the Clinton Administration, not mean that liberals also contributed a great deal to existing climate change at a time (25 years ago) when we could have easily slid from non-renewables to nuclear (and the nuclear being developed at the time was nothing like Chernobyl reactor, it was the Integral Fast Reactor - one of the best books on that is from one of the scientists decommissioned by the Clinton administration (http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/pdfs/P4TP4U.pdf).  I know that has nothing to do with diet, but I make this point as with so many people making arguments for and against important positions like vegetarianism/veganism, we must each take our stands in the direction we believe the data support.   I think for many vegetarians, giving up meat, as long as they are not excessively narcissistic and self-righteous about it, is a private decision made against the excessively consumerist culture, like replacing our cars with bicycles, practicing minimalism with our possessions, or even using one's typewriter when powering up the PC is unnecessary.

  49. Thanks for admitting me to the forum and for this interesting discussion. When we are talking about climate change it seems to me that we need to be thinking about 'carbon in the biosphere' as being the primary issue rather than 'carbon in the atmosphere' (which is a consequence of the former)! Something that has really puzzled me for some time is the (I think) indisputable fact that these two classes of carbon are frequently not differentiated when we discuss food footprints. I understand that in Australia virtually all beef production is 'rangeland' meaning the animals rely almost entirely on natural pasturage and waters. Granted, the sheer (and increasing) quantum of animal production - with concommitant transport and other f/f inputs - is a major issue - but it does seem to me that the GGEs supposedly associated with animal production remain quite misunderstood. What exactly is the long-term GG issue associated with ruminant husbandry is the CO2 and methane being produced is based on carbon that is already in the biosphere? Doesn't this husbandry and consequent consumption just move the carbo atoms around in the biosphere? Isn't it the introduction of long-sequestered carbon into the biosphere via use of fossil fuels what we should really be focussed on? 

  50. @Savvas,

    Exactly correct but it goes deeper than that. 

    There is a logic flaw every time we suppose that any type of food is "harmful" to the environment or causes AGW. 

    Food does not cause AGW...EVER.

    Agriculture can contribute to AGW if the methods used have impact, but this is a result of methods used. Agriculture is equally capable of mitigating AGW as contributing to AGW. In this regards it is even more important than fossil fuels vs renewable energy.

    Renewable energy is hugely beneficial of course, but there is no renewable energy that is a net negative. (although theorectically there are potentially ways to manage it, none exist now at our current technology)

    Agriculture on the other hand varies from a large net emissions source to a large net emissions sink depending on the methods used. It absolutely can be done at a net negative, unlike renewable energy which simply tapers down to zero.

    Focusing on the food itself, rather than the production methods for that food is a critically flawed strategy the simply obfuscates and confuses, rather than actually helping to make the changes needed to mitigate AGW.

    Bottom line is that yes, factory farmed animal husbandry is a net source for emissions, but properly managed animal husbandry is quite capable of easily being a net sink. Eating less meat when it is being raised as a net sink actually INCREASES your carbon footprint, rather than decreasing it. While eating less factory farmed meat does decrease your carbon footprint.

    Thus it is not what you eat nearly as much as it is how what you eat was produced.

    This is not any different than energy actually. Electricity is not inherently a cause of AGW either. Produced by a coal plant sure. Then it is. But produced by a windmill? Certainly not. So it's not the electricity itself to blame, but rather the way the electricity is generated. Food is exactly the same as this, including meat.

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