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 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.
Livestock experts Anne Mottet and Henning Steinfeld, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), warn of the pitfalls of simplification when looking at greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and transport are often compared, but in a flawed way.
Calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.
What the evidence shows is that becoming vegetarian might help reduce your personal footprint—but it will be better to focus on a range of solutions if we want to have an impact on climate change.
Below are excerpts of a response to a new livestock report made by Ilse Köhler-Rollefson, a German veterinarian and researcher who is an expert on camels and camel herding societies.