From the University of Edinburgh via Eurekalert, just scratching the surface of this press release suggests something’s gone sour, the numbers they cite don’t make for much concern in the larger context of things. See below.
Milk poured down Britain’s kitchen sinks each year creates a carbon footprint equivalent to thousands of car exhaust emissions, research shows
Scientists say the 360,000 tonnes of milk wasted in the UK each year creates greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 100,000 tonnes of CO2. The study by the University of Edinburgh says this is the same as is emitted by about 20,000 cars annually.
The research identifies ways that consumers could also help curb greenhouse gas emissions – by reducing the amount of food they buy, serve and waste. They also suggest the food industry could reduce emissions by seeking more efficient ways to use fertilisers.
Researchers also say halving the amount of chicken consumed in the UK and other developed countries to levels eaten in Japan could cut greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road.
Figures show that if average chicken consumption in developed countries fell from the current level of 26kg each per year to the Japanese average of about 12kg each by 2020, global emissions from poultry would fall below current levels, despite increased output from the developing world. This would cut the predicted global output of nitrous oxide, a key greenhouse gas, from this source by almost 20 per cent, based on current growth rates.
Demand for food, particularly meat, is expected to increase over the next few decades as the world’s population continues to grow and emerging countries consume more.
Agriculture is the biggest source of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that is emitted by soil and fertilisers. Producing meat produces more emissions than growing crops, as large amounts of cereals are grown to feed livestock.
Researchers arrived at their findings by examining data for global agricultural production of greenhouse gases together with consumption of food in various regions of the world. The study, carried out in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen and partners in Europe and the US, was published in Nature Climate Change.
Dr David Reay of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “Eating less meat and wasting less food can play a big part in helping to keep a lid on greenhouse gas emissions as the world’s population increases.”
Well, wasting food is never a good thing, I agree with that, but is this a big problem or not? I decided to have a look at the numbers.
From DairyCo Datum in the UK, here’s a table of worldwide milk production based on FAO data, highlight mine:
The 360,000 tonnes of milk said to be wasted in the press release seems like a huge number, but when compared to 13.96 million tonnes of milk produced in the UK in 2010, it is literally a drop in the milk bucket. It works out to about 2.6%, which given such a perishable product, isn’t a bad number at all. I expected it to be much higher, like 25% the way the article was written.
And since they are concerned about global warming, the comparison globally:
Even if the UK stopped wasting all milk, the impact against the global milk carbon footprint is nil.
And while they bemoan the waste in the press release, they offer no solution. What are citizens supposed to do with spoiled milk? Drink it? I’ll bet this will go over well in UK schools like this program: Climate Craziness of the Week – let the kids freeze, all I want for Christmas is a zero carbon footprint
A headmaster at a British school decided a great lesson in sustainability would be to turn off the heat for a day. In December:
Pupils at Ansford Academy in Castle Cary, Somerset, were forced to grip their pens through thick gloves and wear their coats and hats in class as temperatures dropped to 1C. The school’s headmaster, Rob Benzie, shut down the radiators as an experiment to show students how the school could cut its carbon footprint.
The milk waste researchers also seem clueless about how the carbon cycle works, as if somehow that milk if consumed magically loses all of its carbon content via the other route that eventually ends up down the sewer.