Table of Contents:
- The Climate Police Are At It Again
- "Climate change" is controversial
A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows the anti-livestock agenda is alive and well.
He acknowledged that the words “climate change” can be controversial among some people, but added, “As far as greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations in the atmosphere, I don’t think there’s any controversy. Those are true measurements. The science is really solid on that. What people might question is, what’s the impact of those greenhouse gases?
“It is certainly clear by 97% of those climate scientists that the increases in greenhouse gases such as CO2, nitrous oxide and methane, have resulted in about a 1.5°F increase in global temperatures. That’s an important point, that it’s global. There’s a lot of variation around the globe. In time, our atmosphere goes through natural cycles and what the scientists are saying is that what we’re doing is enhancing those cycles,” Rice says.
The 18 authors of the agriculture and forestry chapter make some key recommendations. They include soil carbon sequestration through land management changes, no-till farming being chief among them; increasing crop yields and livestock feeding efficiency; reducing food waste; and…drum roll, please … pursuing changing human diets away from food animal production.
Rice acknowledges that this recommendation may be controversial, but the authors determined that changing human diets away from food animal products could help in mitigating greenhouse gases, according to the KSU release.
Here’s the logic behind that recommendation. “Methane emissions from livestock are a major contributor to agriculture’s footprint,” Rice says. “Approximately 40% of agriculture’s emissions are due to livestock and if we could reduce livestock that would reduce emissions.”
However, Rice says the report acknowledges that there are social and political barriers to all of these options. “Certainly the consumption of meat would be a social barrier. Traditionally, as countries increase their personal income, meat or protein consumption goes up,” Rice says in the release. But because livestock production is a contributor to greenhouse gasses, Rice says it had to be put on the table.
As you might expect, the beef industry’s statistics are a little different and take exception to the linear logic expressed by the report’s authors. According to the beef industry life-cycle assessment conducted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and, important to this conversation, certified by NSF International, the beef industry in the U.S. has made and continues to make significant improvements in its energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the life-cycle assessment report, from 2005 to 2011, the beef industry in the U.S. reduced water use by 3%, reduced resource consumption and energy use by 2%, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2%. “From 2005 to 2011, improvements in crop yields, machinery technology, irrigation techniques, fertilizer management, nutrition and animal performance have resulted in lowering the environmental footprint of the beef production process and improving on-farm sustainability,” according to an NCBA factsheet.
What’s more, beef industry sustainability expert Jude Capper says that, in 2007, cattlemen were significantly more environmentally sustainable than they were 30 years ago. Her analysis shows that today’s farmers and ranchers raise 13% more beef from 13% fewer cattle. When compared with beef production in 1977, each pound of beef produced today produces 18% fewer carbon emissions; takes 30% less land and requires 14% less water. In short, between 1977 and 2007, U.S. beef producers reduced their overall carbon footprint by 16%.
It’s important to recognize that the 40% figure quoted by Rice is a global estimate and the NCBA statistics are U.S. estimates, so making any direct comparison is difficult. And it’s not my goal to engage in “statistics ping-pong,” nor is it my goal to cast aspersions at Rice or the other authors of the agriculture chapter in the IPCC report.
But the statistics from NCBA and Capper do emphatically point out that, in the U.S. at least, farmers and ranchers are achieving the goal of increasing crop yields and livestock feeding efficiency. That, to me, makes the recommendation to move human diets away from food animal products shortsighted at best and socially and culturally dangerous at worst.
This is not the first time the UN has taken aim at livestock producers, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. But, if the UN really wants to make progress in mitigating climate change, perhaps it might be better served to aggressively pursue exporting the U.S. agriculture production system to the rest of the world, instead of aggressively trying to destroy it.
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