BEEF Editors' Blog

The Climate Police Are At It Again

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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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Discuss this Blog Entry 18

on Apr 23, 2014

Two fundamental things must be accepted to buy into this science.

1) Man is causing climate change
2) We can correct climate change without disrupting, or even destroying our industrial system that supports the Earth’s population.

Consider the spew coming from China and India. They are going to slow their economies? No.

The Earth has had many climate changes in the past, some small, some very, very big.

I believe the primary purpose of all this climate change talk is to control production and to shift wealth more into the hands of government.

on Apr 23, 2014

There is the real issue. "Climate change/global warming/acid rain/the coming ice age/... is just the latest manifestation of the camel trying to get its nose under the tent. This is the new cloths & look of comunisim and central government planing.

W.E. (not verified)
on Apr 28, 2014

Look at the work of Jim Gerrish, Greg Judy, Joel Salatin and others if you want to see proof that climate change abatement can begin at home in your own pasture and range land. In an interview with Allan Savory, "Healing the Land, Grazing for Solutions," by Danielle Nierenberg, 30 January 2014, he says: "Agriculture is not simply crop production. It is the production of food and fibre from the world’s land and waters. Without agriculture it is simply not possible to have an orchestra, a church, university, army, political party or government. It is the very foundation of civilization, which by definition is city-based and dependent on farmers/livestock producers to feed them. And ultimately the only wealth that can sustain any community, economy or nation, is derived from the photosynthetic process – green plants growing on regenerating soil. Global political stability and good governance is likely to prove elusive as long as agriculture continues to produce more than 10 tons of eroding soil per human alive every year, as it does globally and in the US today."
Yes, people cause climate change. We always have, since agriculture began. Deserts grow upstream and floods destroy downstream from wherever we have disregarded the importance of stewarding the land. Planned grazing rebuilds topsoil; good soil structure beneath perennial forages helps alleviate the effects of both drought and flood. If mankind had the sense to work together on soil erosion and its resulting change in climate, we could fix it within a hundred years. Unfortunately, human beings have never been all that good at seeing eye to eye, or at considering the welfare of our descendants or at working together. It's much easier to remain suspicious of one another, denying all responsibility for every law of nature that we have broken throughout history.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

I get so sick of hearing about climate change. Yes we need to take care of the earth, but we didn't create it and we won't be the ones to destroy it either.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

You may be sick of hearing about it, but it is here and will continue to affect us. Just one example that is eye-opening: Arctic ice thickness has decreased 40 percent since the 1960s!
I'm always amazed how science and its findings can be manipulated by conservatives to become a political issue. Facts are facts.

on Apr 23, 2014

And YOU, Mr. or Ms. Amazed, caused climate change?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

Unless we put on our big boy pants and deal with reality, we very well could be responsible for the destruction. The attitude of "we didn't cause it and can't fix it" is a major part of the problem.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

Data has been collected on CO2 concentrations from bubble that have been trapped in arctic ice for around 400,000 years. NASA has a good site to check the data out. Now is 400,000 years enough data considering the age of Earth is approximately 4.54 billion years old? 400,000 years is about .008% of the earth's total age. BUT if you look at that data over from the past 400,000 years you can see a reasonable cyclic pattern up until about the 1950's (think global population boom, lots of industry and energy needed to run said industry). So can we say without a doubt that humans are part of the greenhouse gas problem, well no, not 100% without a doubt, but the data that has been collected thus far shows us that we might be part of the problem. It's hard for us scientists to come right out and say we are 100% sure about anything, we know gravity works but there is still research being done on that as well. When articles like this come out it just sets off a wave of panic and anger among most of the readers. The propaganda from both sides of this debate is just insanely silly. Look at the science and we can say sure, we MAY be a part of the problem. Does it really hurt all that much to try and be environmentally sound? At our family run farm we don't think so.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

Do you raise cattle on your family run farm? If so, are you prepared to give up (or be forced to give up) raising cattle on the chance that it could reduce greenhouse gasses?

on Apr 23, 2014

I'm "amazed" by the idiocy of the left, the right, and those portions of the scientific community that will not admit that climate change is nothing new and has been ongoing for millions of years, with and with out the help of mankind.

What do you think killed the dinosaurs for crying out loud.

Climate change is part of the earths nature and we are not going to do much to change that.

But we can sure bet that somebody with a title is going to play the blame game and use it for political gain any way they can.

on Apr 23, 2014

If we stop eating beef from marginal lands. 1 what happens to those millions of cows? 2. since there are fewer farmers every year who will grow inefficient crops on the marginal land for little or no profit? Import a million or so chinese farmers? China just condemned a few million acres of farm land! I guess when you collect a wage that says find a target to hit doesn't matter what the target is as long as you found one.

Jaime (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

Central control (even if dressed up as oversight) of private property is pure Marxism because it abolishes critical characteristics of private ownership for the common good, a concept that Ayn Rand says brings subhuman misery and enslavement.
America's exceptionalism to Marx' preposterous suggestion that all countries will go communist, is based on our gov't's protection of our private property rights.
Destroy that protection by authorizing unaccountable bureaucracies to pit humans against subhuman animals and Godless habitat and environment in which humans lose every time, and America will be destroyed.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

ummm....what the heck does this comment have to do with anything?

Jaime (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

The 2005 IPCC report to policymakers predicted 50 million "climate refugees" by 2010. Garbage in; garbage out.

on Apr 23, 2014

Jude Capper's report highlights what was lost in the UN "Livestock's Long Shadow" Report: The North American livestock system is the best system if we worry about climate change. It is a model for the world to follow. And we are still improving it.

Frank Schlichting (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

If there really is a rise in temperatures it is mostly caused by humans digging up carbon stored in the earth and burning it. Unfortunately things will be getting worse.........we are getting a lot better at finding gas and oil to burn.

Joel church (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

Why does nobody realize and trust that GOD is in control ?! Heard it on the radio yesterday," people in denim built this country and people in suits are destroying it" . Oh how true!!!!

Frank Schlichting (not verified)
on Apr 23, 2014

If there really is a rise in temperatures it is mostly caused by humans digging up carbon stored in the earth and burning it. Unfortunately things will be getting worse.........we are getting a lot better at finding gas and oil to burn.

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