It’s upsetting and a bit disturbing that a NY Times “Green blogger” has perpetuated a claim from the Center for Consumer Freedom that there is no strong connection between meat and global warming.
The recent NY Times article titled “Meat & Climate: The Debate Continues” (which I refuse to link to) cites a press release from the CCF (a.k.a a front group for the restaurant, alcohol and tobacco industries) which used an EPA figure estimating that only 6% of US greenhouse gases are caused by agriculture production, including meat. They used this figure to argue that there is no significant connection between meat and global warming. The EPA figure stands in stark contrast to the 2006 UN FAO report (Livestock’s Longshadow) which attributes 18% of global greenhouse gases to livestock production. Considering how much meat Americans consume, I find it hard to believe that the US produces far less GHG relative to other countries.
If you read the first paragraph of the study, you would learn that the EPA figure omits the emissions from CO2 and land-use changes. In contrast, the 2006 UN FAO study includes CO2, as well as methane and other greenhouse gases as a result of the entire livestock production process.
“Agricultural activities contribute directly to emissions of greenhouse gases through a variety of processes. This chapter provides an assessment of non-carbon-dioxide emissions from the following source categories: enteric fermentation in domestic livestock, livestock manure management, rice cultivation, agricultural soil management, and field burning of agricultural residues (see Figure 6-1). Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and removals from agriculture-related land-use activities, such as conversion of grassland to cultivated land, are presented in the Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry chapter. CO2 emissions from on-farm energy use are accounted for in the Energy chapter.”
…Scientists usually tie their estimates of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming to sources such as land use changes, agriculture (including livestock) and transportation. The authors of Livestock’s long shadow took a different approach, aggregating emissions throughout the livestock commodity chain – from feed production (which includes chemical fertilizer production, deforestation for pasture and feed crops, and pasture degradation), through animal production (including enteric fermentation and nitrous oxide emissions from manure) to the carbon dioxide emitted during processing and transportation of animal products.
Why the EPA chose to ignore the impact of CO2 and US land-use changes, is a puzzle to address. As the UN report shows, land-use is a major reason why GHG from livestock is high. When one looks at the example of deforestation of the Amazon (80% of which is attributed to livestock), it’s not hard to see why global land-use, and the whole livestock commodity chain should be a concern.
Another commenter of the Times article adds “CCF had to go as far as misrepresenting a Bush era EPA report, that were often lower bounds or distortions of staff reports.”