a group of scientists recently published a paper on the importance of distinguishing—and treating differently—two of the most common greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is a long-lived emission and methane a short-lived one. The paper outlined a better way to think about how much, and how long, carbon dioxide and methane gases contribute to greenhouse gas emissions budgets.
FAO has set the record straight regarding not just the level of greenhouse gas that livestock emit (see yesterday’s posting on this blog) but also incorrect information about how much food (crops eatable by humans) livestock consume, the regular reporting of which is commonly used to bolster arguments for the world to go vegetarian.
As the media frenzy caused by a ‘planetary health diet’ proposed in a new report from an EAT-Lancet commission this month continues, it is perhaps timely to recall that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has set the record straight regarding a flawed comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock and transport sectors, a statement that is commonly used to support arguments for the world to stop eating meat.
Originally posted on AgHealth:
The Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change is a multidisciplinary, international research collaboration that provides a global overview of the relationship between public health and climate change. Publishing its findings annually in The Lancet, the initiative generates research evidence to inform an accelerated policy response to climate change.…
Finding flexible solutions to land usage, plus more good land on which to grow food, is essential to our survival. . . . [L]ivestock in the right places, using thoughtful methodologies, just may be able to feed us and feed the soil—all while helping us meet carbon and other climate goals.
The narrative posited by cultured meat proponents is that animal agriculture requires large amounts of land and water and produces high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). The environmental impacts of a product, such as a beef hamburger, is then compared to the anticipatory ones for producing a cultured hamburger patty through tissue engineering-based cellular agriculture. While it is true that conventional meat production has a large environmental footprint, the problem with this dichotomous framing is that it overlooks the rest of the story.
As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it. A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.