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Posts Tagged ‘Global Warming’

Gore on ABC News

In a recent ABC News Interview, Al Gore was asked about Glen Beck’s insistence for him to become vegetarian, if he truly wanted to fight global warming.

Gore’s response:  ”I’m not a vegetarian, but I have cut back sharply on the meat that I eat,” he said. “It’s absolutely correct that the growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis – not only because of the CO2 involved, but also because of the water consumed in the process.”

Glen Beck has invited PETA on his show numerous times, in an attempt to embarrass Gore and climate change activists at their own game.

Here is Glen Beck with PETA President Ingrid Newkirk last week:

Thankfully most people don’t see the world in the black & white goggles which Beck wears.  Anyone can make a significant difference in their carbon footprint with just a small reduction in their diet.  The first step and acknowledgement is most important.  Whether someone becomes vegetarian or vegan is a whole other challenge and process.  Fortunately there are plenty of organizations and online resources/recipes to help you get started!

Read the article by Ecorazzi

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A great multilingual, international initiative to raise awareness of the impact of livestock and meat production on the environment, global warming and world hunger.  Please sign the Global “Meat Free” Petition!  Help establish a national “meat free” day in your country!

From the site:

You might be asking yourself, why do we have to petition governments to declare a “Meat Free” day? That’s simple. Let’s look at Ghent, Belgium for example. Government officials in Ghent have shown leadership and recognized the importance of promoting vegetarianism as a solution to addressing climate change and have thus declared a “veggie” only day – every week; clearly their stance is raising awareness and promoting the many benefits that a plant based diet has on the environment – not to mention on human health.

Facebook group:  “Meat Free” Days – Vote & Set a Global Governmental Trend – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=109725730676&ref=ts

http://twitter.com/MFMpetition

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The meat industry and its front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom are perpetuating the myth that Americans should not be worried about the meat & global warming connection. This is the argument:

The US has a more efficient livestock production system. According to the 2006 US EPA report, US agriculture causes less than 6% of US greenhouse gases, while livestock causes only 2.58% of US GHG. The UN says 18% of *global* GHG is due to livestock. We should resume consumption patterns and keep the industry competitive; otherwise we’d be importing more meat from less GHG efficient livestock production systems, and cause MORE global warming.

The argument exploits very misleading and incomplete statistics and rests on some flawed assumptions. In the final analysis, what matters is the total VOLUME of American consumption & GHG production, and factoring in livestock’s land and land-use.

Below are some facts which point to how the US livestock industry is definitely a major contributor to global warming.

1. The US consumes FAR more meat / animal products than most of the world.

  • According to the UN FAO, the average American eats about 275 pounds of meat per year (more than any other country). The average Chinese eats 108 pounds per year (Earth Policy Insitute, 2005).
  • According to a 2005 FAO study on meat consumption between 1998 – 2002, the average meat consumption per Chinese is 52 kg, compared to Americans at 125 kg, and Britain at 80 kg.   note:  there are smaller countries which (on average, per person) consume a little more meat than the US – 300 mil. people (for example: New Zealand – 4 mil. people, Denmark 5.5 mil. people, and some countries which consume around the same amount of meat.
  • If the whole world ate meat at the American rate, only 2/5 of the world’s population (2.5 billion people) would be fed (Lester Brown).
  • So much for American efficiency. The world’s leading consumers of meat and animal products share the biggest responsibility for continuing to make the global livestock industry grow! As long as the meat industry continues to be supported by a growing culture of high volume meat eaters, the industry will be able to expand its reach globally.

    Dr. Barry Popkin, author of “The World is Fat”, agrees

    What’s more, the developing world seems to be falling in step, Popkin says. In India, meat and dairy intake more than doubled between 2000 and 2005. In 2006, the average diet of 67% of the Chinese population comprised at least 10% meat and dairy products, up from about 39% of the population in 1989. “We truly did this to the globe — changed the way the world eats,” says Popkin.

    2. The US produces FAR more GHG than most of the world.

    The U.S., with a population of about 300 million (5% of the world), produces about 18% (2009 US EPA) of GLOBAL greenhouse gases.

    Consider the image below which portrays the CO2 responsibility PER CAPITA by country between 1950-2000.

    CO2 responsibility 1950-2000

    Not surprisingly, most of the US and “Western countries” are the highest emitters. See more “List of countries by greenhouse gases in 2000″

    Even though China as a whole produces more CO2 as a country (since recently), their per capita emissions figures are STILL 1/3 – 1/4 of the US population (China recently officially surpassed the US in producing GHG, but China has 4 times the population (China has 1.3 billion people, US has 300 million people)).

    It’s a huge difference. So what does this tell us about the EPA’s estimates on livestocks GHG impact?

    We can predict that X% of US GHG per capita is far greater than X% of China’s GHG per capita.

    Basically 2.58% of US GHG is much more than 2.58% of China GHG (or most other countries).

    We know this because on average, one American is emitting as much GHG as four Chinese. In addition, one American consumes as much meat as 2-3 Chinese citizens (again, the average meat consumption per Chinese is 52 kg, compared to Americans at 125 kg – 2005 FAO)

    3. The US EPA report does not include land-use (deforestation, desertification) and other criteria used in the UN FAO report.

    As I explain in a previous post, the EPA report excludes the whole GLOBAL livestock commodity chain including fuel combustion, agricultural CO2 fluxes and land-use changes (such as deforestation), while the UN report includes these factors (as its a global organization, and land-use is probably difficult to quanity on a country level).

    According to the UN’s Livestock’s Long Shadow report, land-use is the primary reason why livestock’s share of global GHG is so high:

    “(livestock) accounts for nine percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, most of it due to expansion of pastures and arable land for feed crops.

    The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. Grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, while feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, and feed crops cover a large part of the reminder.

    Consider the GHG volume of land use compared to livestock’s other GHG sources:

    Land use and land use change: 2.5 Giga tonnes CO2 (#1) equivalent; including forest and other natural vegetation replaced by pasture and feed crop in the Neotropics (CO2) and carbon release from soils such as pasture and arable land dedicated to feed production (CO2)
    — Feed Production (except carbon released from soil): 0.4 Giga tonnes CO2 equivalent, including fossil fuel used in manufacturing chemical fertilizer for feed crops (CO2) and chemical fertilizer application on feedcrops and leguminous feed crop (N2O, NH3)
    — Animal production: 1.9 Giga tonnes CO2 equivalent, including enteric fermentation from ruminants (CH4) and on-farm fossil fuel use (CO2)
    — Manure Management: 2.2 Giga tonnes CO2 equivalent, mainly through manure storage, application and deposition (CH4, N2O, NH3)
    — Processing and international transport: 0.03 Giga tonnes CO2 equivalent

    From these figures we know that the U.S EPA omitted a huge cause of GHG from the livestock industry.

    In conclusion

    We know that…

    1. US meat consumption per capita is higher than most of the world’s.
    2. The US produces way too much GHG per capita (5% of world population produces about 18% of GHG)
    3. The US EPA report does not factor in the #1 cause of CO2 emissions from livestock: land and land-use (2.5 Giga tonnes).

    The US livestock industry’s share of the GLOBAL livestock industry’s greenhouse gases is much higher than the industry (whose prime consumers are Westerners) is willing to admit. It’s hard to calculate an exact figure, but we know the leading consumers and producers of meat also support the growth of a global livestock industry, which contributes most of its GHG through land and land-use.

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    Sophie from Food for Change brought to my attention this new organization from Hong Kong called “Save the Human!”

    Check out their music video:  Save The Human! Don’t Eat The Planet. 

    Mission:  Save the Human! is a campaign aimed at raising public awareness about the link between our diets and the health of our planet.

    Concept:  Save the Human! is a graphic & visual campaign that seeks to inspire people to shift their lifestyles towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle that treads gently on the Earth.  Using the mediums of eco-fashion, graphics, design & multimedia to awaken peoples’ humanness and compassion and to inform the public of some emerging alarming facts.

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    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.

    EPA on Agriculture Emissions in 2006:

    “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.”

    Livestock’s Longshadow:

    …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.”

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    In this post I wanted to give some love to Food for Change, PB&J Campaign and Veg Climate Alliance.  Each focuses their blog on the connection between meat and global warming.  I recommend them all!

    Food for Change

    Food for Change promotes food choices that are sustainable, ethical and environmentally responsible.

    This blog from the UK has a unique focus on animal agriculture on the environment and was founded a year ago by Sophie Pritchard.  Learn about her motivations, ideas and more about the impact of livestock on global warming, the environment and health in her recent interview on Green Girls Global.  Then check out her other posts!

    I became frustrated that environmental organisations continued to turn a blind eye to the environmental impact of livestock, particularly when both environmental and humanitarian organisations strongly and publicly oppose biofuels because of their environmental and social impacts when I knew that they caused only a fraction of the problems that the livestock industry does. I asked all these organisations about why they focused on biofuels, considering their impacts are the same as meat, but lower in scale. They all told me that the issue with biofuels was that they were making matters worse, whereas the devastation caused by livestock is long-standing. That didn’t seem like a good enough reason to ignore the issue to me.


    PB&J Campaign

    The PB&J Campaign is working to combat environmental destruction by reducing the amount of animal products people eat.

    I really like how they emphasize that even a small reduction in the consumption of animal products generates significant results.

    Check out the PB&J Pledge that will calculate the impact of your meals on greenhouse gas emissions, water and land based on whether or not you consume animal products.   The methodology is derived from sound scientific studies.

    PB&J has a long-running blog (since April 2008) with MANY interesting posts on the impact of meat on global warming.

    Graph on climate impact of meat consumption

    meatgraphfull1


    Veg Climate Alliance

    Veg Climate Alliance, a new international alliance of vegetarian, environmental and animal rights activists and organizations, stresses that the best thing a person can do to stop global warming and its catastrophic consequences is to switch to a plant-based diet.

    Mission Statement

    Veg Climate Alliance exists to slow global warming by helping people access the most needed information:

    a global shift to vegetarianism is necessary to avoid rapidly approaching catastrophic climatic conditions and other environmental threats.

    To accomplish this awareness, we will:

    • Seek the support, advice and partnership of key groups and individuals;
    • Jointly release media statements and resolutions;
    • Jointly lobby governments and international groups, including the UN, to specifically promote the veg diet as a means to combat climate change.

    In the same aim we will also provide a central information and communication hub connecting all concerned groups/organizations/communities/individuals.

    It’s awesome to see an organization setup to help bring together all of the advocates and supporters of this subject to share ideas and to lobby governmental groups to promote a veg diet.  I hope to be a part of it.  See their blog, veg events listings and their forum!

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    updatePlease join the campaign!

    Bill S. 527 gives a free pass for factory farms to pollute the air with CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide without regulation!

    Farm Sanctuary has setup a form to write to your representative in Congress to vote NO on S. 527.  Please take a few minutes to voice your opposition to S. 527 to your network and Congressional representatives!

    Bill S. 527 specifically includes the following text:

    CERTAIN EMISSIONS FROM AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION- No permit shall be issued under a permit program under this title for any carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production.

    Keep on the lookout for a petition soon.  Here is my personal response:

    Please oppose Bill S. 527, which exempts livestock production from the Clean Air Act!

    According to a 2006 UN FAO report – 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock.  This is more than the emissions from all the cars and planes in the world combined!

    As global meat consumption is predicted to double by 2050, we must take significant measures to minimize livestock production, and its impact.

    In addition – the UN FAO report states animal agriculture is responsible for 37% of anthropogenic methane emissions (20 times more powerful than CO2) and 65% of all nitrous oxide (296 times).

    In light of the rising dangers of global climate change, the expansion of factory farming must not be left unregulated.

    These farms should be expected to INVEST in better farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like every other industrial sector.

    Thank you.

    More…

    NY Times:  Senators Have Beef with ‘Cow Tax’

    Grist: The ‘cow tax': not now, maybe not ever

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    notfunny

    WSJ Video:  Watch how methane is measured : Gassy Sheep Add to Global Warming

    Have you heard that cow farts are causing global warming?

    Actually, most of the methane emissions from cows and other livestock aren’t from flatulence or farts.  They’re from burping.  About 98 per cent of the methane from a cow is emitted through its mouth. (source:  Kebreab, Journal of Animal Science. 

    In fact, the average grain-fed dairy cow belches out about 500 litres of methane each day,  compared to about 600-700 litres a day per grass-fed cow, due to their unique enteric fermentation digestive process. (source:  Ermias Kebreab of the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment).  In total, livestock’s total gas emissions include 37% of all methane (20 times more powerful than CO2) and 65% of all nitrous oxide (296 times).  Yes it’s much funnier to talk about farting than burping/belching.  It certainly raises more eyebrows, which explains why many of the headlines on cattle methane go for the “farting to blame for global warming” angle instead, despite its inaccuracy.

    The answers to the commonly asked questions below will help dispel the inevitable joke/comment on our gassy footprint.

    How many livestock are there?

    • In 2007, at any given time, there were approximately 1.3 billion cattle, 1 billion sheep, 1 billion pigs, 800 million goats and 17 billion chicken (UN FAO).  This means – one cattle for every five people, one sheep for every six, one goat for every eight, and 2.5 chickens for every person.
    • 10 billion animals are raised and slaughtered each year in the USA (30 animals for each American)

    How much do livestock eat?

    • Each day, a cow eats about 20 pounds of grain, 40 – 60 pounds of ensilage, 30 pounds of hay and drinks about 15 – 25 gallons of water

    Do they poop a lot?

    • Animals raised for food produce 1.4 billion metric tons of manure, which is 130 times more excrement than the entire human population put together, for a total of 87,000 pounds per second.

    When one looks at the number of animals which are eaten, and the amount of crops and energy that are required to feed them, it becomes increasingly clear that we must define the problem as rising meat consumption, not the cows themselves.  According to the UN FAO, annual global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tons in 2000 to 465 million tons in 2050.

    It’s important to understand that methane emissions from livestock are only one part of the “meat footprint”.  The emissions from the meat production process includes many other steps which generates high levels CO2.

    Some of the ways which the animal agriculture industry generates its CO2 emissions include:  the clearing forests for cattle grazing or planting feed (Brazilian Amazon especially), slaughtering livestock in factories, and transporting, storing and packaging the meat.    So please don’t let anyone keep you from holding in farts (it’s bad for you) or keep you from enjoying beans.

    Correction:  A previous version cited that the average dairy cow belches out about 100 to 200 liters of methane each day, according to Michael Abberton, a scientist at the UK-based Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research.   Guess you can average it out.

    picture source

    But whether it’s farting or burping, it’s given plenty of ammunition for global warming skeptics to make light of global warming, and the research & policies that are proposed to address animal agriculture’s impact.

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    The meat and global warming link just got a huge publicity boost.

    Mark Bittman, author of Food Matters, vegan until 6, and food columnist/blogger at the NY Times,  tonight appeared on what many consider to be the mother of all political talk shows (if you exclude the Daily Show) – the Colbert Report (1.3 million viewers)!!!

    See the interview on Eat Me Daily or on Comedy Central

    Bittman begins by explaining what it means to “eat consciously” and how we could help ourselves and the planet by adopting a more plant-based diet.  He then explains the meat and global warming connection with help from Colbert!

    Bittman was able to both talk about this subject seriously and play along to Colbert’s jabs.  It was especially awesome to see Colbert read the statistics himself.

    Those of us that have been talking about meat and global warming can now say “It was on the Colbert Report”.  Enough said!

    Some highlights:

    • Colbert:  And my guest tonight is NY Times Food Columnist Mark Bittman! I’ll ask him what foods taste best grilled over a burning NY Times!
    • Colbert:  You say that you are a vegan until 6 pm.  But after that anything goes? Seriously? Does that just go for food?
    • Colbert:  You say that feeding a family of four – a steak dinner, is the equivalent of driving around in a SUV for three hours with all the lights on.
    • Colbert:  How does oil or fuel go into me having a steak? Bittman:  It’s been said, by the United Nations that about a 1/5 or 1/6 of all greenhouse gases are produced by industrialized livestock production.  Colbert:  Industrialized livestock? Oh robot cows.
    • Bittman:  We churn out 10 billion (livestock) a year in this country which means about 30 animals per person in the United States.  We eat those, it increases global warming.  To the extent you eat less of that meat you reduce global warming.
    • Colbert:  You say if we ate 3 fewer cheeseburgers a week, it would have the same impact as taking all SUVs off the road.
    • Bittman:  If we reduce the amount of meat and processed food in our diets, we’re losing weight, we’re making ourselves less susceptible to lifestyle disease, and we’re actually helping the environment and reducing global warming.  It’s like, almost everything.
    • Colbert:  If I could only eat one thing what would it be?  Bittman:  Uh…I dunno (Bittman hesitates…Colbert begins to end show) …cheeseburgers!

    Related:  10 online videos on meat and global warming

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    If you read the comments from articles about the impact of meat on global warming, it’s likely you’ll encounter arguments against vegetarianism, especially if the word “vegetarian” or “vegan” is in the title.

    These arguments tend to be not only misguided but irrelevant as they shift the focus of the debate from “Should I reduce my meat intake to help stop global warming?” (the question we should all be asking ourselves) to “Should I be a vegetarian?” (the question you ask yourself after you try it out for a bit)

    Take this example of a popular “Have your say” discussion from the BBC which asks the question, “Should we eat less meat to help the environment? (with a staggering 2281 comments)”

    People who are Vegetarians do so voluntarily. No one forces them to eat meat, or give up their chosen diets no matter how unnatural they are. Why, then, must they try to force the rest of us to live their chosen lifestyle? Surely, they must realize that they are in the vast minority and eventually there will be a backlash against them & their totalitarian methods by the silent majority? They & the weak-willed politicians that give in to them, had better be careful of just how far they push us.

    David Zimlin, Dunedin, Florida, United States

    But you’ll also encounter gems like this one..

    I was at the lecture. Dr Pachauri spoke in a personal capacity only and as a previous (omnivore).  His figures come from transparent, international organisations and they are clear. If we took 1 meat free day each per week it would reduce CO2 emissions = 5 MILLION cars being taken off the road.  The panel ALSO referred to subsidies of grain and welfare.  If you want to carry on, selfishly and as usual feel free, but please go and discover another planet to ruin. I want to look after this one.

    [inmyshoes], United Kingdom

    As the last commenter shows, you don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to talk about it – or to blog or twitter excessively about it.  I’ll admit it.  I’m not 100% vegetarian.  I’m currently maybe 90% vegetarian (I eat a little seafood, and eat a little dairy).

    Some might suggest this makes me a hypocrite,  and might argue that advocating for a more meat-less diet must mean that I must also have a 100% meat-less diet.

    But the numbers speak for themselves:

    • If the average American were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent, that would be the equivalent of switching from driving a Camry to a Prius. (source:  Eshel, University of Chicago)
    • Beef production generates more than 13 times the total greenhouse gases from producing chicken. (source:  Fiala, Ecological Economics, picture)
    • $20 trillion would be saved from the cost of fighting climate change if the global population shifted to a low-meat diet – defined as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week. (source:  Stehfest, Climatic Change)

    More:  10 WTF Statistics on Meat and Global Warming

    In my opinion, a small reduction in meat consumption (especially beef) from a lot of people is a relatively affordable and easy thing to do.  Compare it to the efficiency and ease of green options such as biking to work or school, buying a Prius or installing solar panels (which are all great ideas).  Eating lower on the food chain is the simplest and most “bang for your buck” green thing to do.

    But the question of whether one should be 100% vegetarian or vegan is something to be answered with time… as it requires more effort, discipline, and practice.

    If you don’t think you can be vegetarian for one day, why not try out the model of NY Times Food Writer, Mark Bittman, who is vegan until 6pm.

    Perhaps we all just need more frequent reminders that global warming is an imminent danger and very real.  Afterall, it is why I blog about it and how I contribute to fighting it.

    MSNBC’s “Countdown to Doomsday” explains the risk of thawing frozen methane:

    More on methane deposits in the future…

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