Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate

Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate

Cattle grazing on public lands near Steens Mountain, Oregon.
BLM/Greg Shine, CC BY

Frank M. Mitloehner, University of California, Davis

As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.

My research focuses on ways in which animal agriculture affects air quality and climate change. In my view, there are many reasons for either choosing animal protein or opting for a vegetarian selection. However, foregoing meat and meat products is not the environmental panacea many would have us believe. And if taken to an extreme, it also could have harmful nutritional consequences.

Global livestock production by region (milk and eggs expressed in protein terms).

Setting the record straight on meat and greenhouse gases

A healthy portion of meat’s bad rap centers on the assertion that livestock is the largest source of greenhouse gases worldwide. For example, a 2009 analysis published by the Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute asserted that 51 percent of global GHG emissions come from rearing and processing livestock.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the largest sources of U.S. GHG emissions in 2016 were electricity production (28 percent of total emissions), transportation (28 percent) and industry (22 percent). All of agriculture accounted for a total of 9 percent. All of animal agriculture contributes less than half of this amount, representing 3.9 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That’s very different from claiming livestock represents as much or more than transportation.

Why the misconception? In 2006 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published a study titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which received widespread international attention. It stated that livestock produced a staggering 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The agency drew a startling conclusion: Livestock was doing more to harm the climate than all modes of transportation combined.

This latter claim was wrong, and has since been corrected by Henning Steinfeld, the report’s senior author. The problem was that FAO analysts used a comprehensive life-cycle assessment to study the climate impact of livestock, but a different method when they analyzed transportation.

For livestock, they considered every factor associated with producing meat. This included emissions from fertilizer production, converting land from forests to pastures, growing feed, and direct emissions from animals (belching and manure) from birth to death.

However, when they looked at transportation’s carbon footprint, they ignored impacts on the climate from manufacturing vehicle materials and parts, assembling vehicles and maintaining roads, bridges and airports. Instead, they only considered the exhaust emitted by finished cars, trucks, trains and planes. As a result, the FAO’s comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock to those from transportation was greatly distorted.

Researchers have identified multiple options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector. Red bars represent the potential range for each practice.
Herrero et al, 2016, via Penn State University, CC BY-NC-SA

I pointed out this flaw during a speech to fellow scientists in San Francisco on March 22, 2010, which led to a flood of media coverage. To its credit, the FAO immediately owned up to its error. Unfortunately, the agency’s initial claim that livestock was responsible for the lion’s share of world greenhouse gas emissions had already received wide coverage. To this day, we struggle to “unring” the bell.

In its most recent assessment report, the FAO estimated that livestock produces 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. There is no comparable full life-cycle assessment for transportation. However, as Steinfeld has pointed out, direct emissions from transportation versus livestock can be compared and amount to 14 versus 5 percent, respectively.

Giving up meat won’t save the climate

Many people continue to think avoiding meat as infrequently as once a week will make a significant difference to the climate. But according to one recent study, even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6 percent. According to our research at the University of California, Davis, if the practice of Meatless Monday were to be adopted by all Americans, we’d see a reduction of only 0.5 percent.

Moreover, technological, genetic and management changes that have taken place in U.S. agriculture over the past 70 years have made livestock production more efficient and less greenhouse gas-intensive. According to the FAO’s statistical database, total direct greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. livestock have declined 11.3 percent since 1961, while production of livestock meat has more than doubled.

Demand for meat is rising in developing and emerging economies, with the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia leading the way. But per capita meat consumption in these regions still lags that of developed countries. In 2015, average annual per capita meat consumption in developed countries was 92 kilograms, compared to 24 kilograms in the Middle East and North Africa and 18 kilograms in Southeast Asia.

Still, given projected population growth in the developing world, there will certainly be an opportunity for countries such as the United States to bring their sustainable livestock rearing practices to the table.

In developing countries, raising livestock such as these goats in Kenya is an important source of food and income for many small-scale farmers and herders.
Loisa Kitakaya, CC BY-SA

The value of animal agriculture

Removing animals from U.S. agriculture would lower national greenhouse gas emissions to a small degree, but it would also make it harder to meet nutritional requirements. Many critics of animal agriculture are quick to point out that if farmers raised only plants, they could produce more pounds of food and more calories per person. But humans also need many essential micro- and macronutrients for good health.

It’s hard to make a compelling argument that the United States has a calorie deficit, given its high national rates of adult and child obesity. Moreover, not all plant parts are edible or desirable. Raising livestock is a way to add nutritional and economic value to plant agriculture.

As one example, the energy in plants that livestock consume is most often contained in cellulose, which is indigestible for humans and many other mammals. But cows, sheep and other ruminant animals can break cellulose down and release the solar energy contained in this vast resource. According to the FAO, as much as 70 percent of all agricultural land globally is range land that can only be utilized as grazing land for ruminant livestock.

The world population is currently projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050. Feeding this many people will raise immense challenges. Meat is more nutrient-dense per serving than vegetarian options, and ruminant animals largely thrive on feed that is not suitable for humans. Raising livestock also offers much-needed income for small-scale farmers in developing nations. Worldwide, livestock provides a livelihood for 1 billion people.

Climate change demands urgent attention, and the livestock industry has a large overall environmental footprint that affects air, water and land. These, combined with a rapidly rising world population, give us plenty of compelling reasons to continue to work for greater efficiencies in animal agriculture. I believe the place to start is with science-based facts.The Conversation

Frank M. Mitloehner, Professor of Animal Science and Air Quality Extension Specialist, University of California, Davis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

HT/Clyde Spencer


91 thoughts on “Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate

  1. “ Climate change demands urgent attention,…I believe the place to start is with science-based facts.”

    I disagree, if you start with science-based facts, you’ll discover that urgent action isn’t needed.

    Prudent preparation seems like a good idea though.

    • It may be prudent to prepare for a change to colder weather rather than warmer weather. So many indicators point toward the beginnings of the next little ice age rather than the opposite.

        • Good catch. While I agree that the next “climate crisis” will be a cold one not a hot one, there is zero “pointers” to that starting to happen now, despite an unusually quiet sun.

          Oddly, those convinced that “it’s the sun stupid” are a stupid as using that catch phrase suggests they are. There has been no sign of cooling since in solar activity peaked in the 1960s , so anyone convinced solar activity is a major player is providing an argument in favour of AGW making up the difference.

    • “Prudent” in terms of what?

      No one has the power to dictate my cut of beef at the local steak house.

      Dictate and I’ll run a herd of Angus in my backyard.

      Where are Texasans for Globlal Warming when ya need them?

        • I don’t wish the world would burn up, but it would be nice if mother nature would get rid of the piles of snow all over the Denver-Boulder area, which apparently the local governments cannot do, a week after a major storm.

          One would think that bus stops would be shoveled so that riders wouldn’t have to step over 2 and 3 foot piles of ice and snow.

          • Leave a shovel next to the bus stop and those riding the bus can shovel it themselves. Put a GPS tracker on the shovel and institute a $1,000.00 or 1% of the thief’s net worth fine for stealing the shovel.

            As a note: We of the auto driving “CLASS” greatly subsidize those who ride the bus through gas taxes. That is a major reason for the failure to properly maintain “infrastructure”. That and greatly underutilized bike trails, bike lanes created by reducing auto travel lanes and underutilized HOV lanes, all built as a form of behavior modification with the GAS TAXES we pay.

            Just what is the left doing with everything regarding this CRISIS? Increasing taxes to modify YOUR behavior while skimming the gravy off the top for the activists and politicians to receive and spend as they please.

    • As the gases in the upper tropical troposphere that are supposed to be warming the climate are at -17ºC and the surface at 15ºC, it matters not what the gases are as they simply cannot warm something hotter than them. Also, the half-life of CO2 and methane are both ~5 years and the turn over thus quite active.

      As there is not active global warming, particularly by human activities, doing anything about the climate other than adapting is a complete and utter waste of time and resources.

      • “As the gases in the upper tropical troposphere that are supposed to be warming the climate…”
        That’s not even wrong.

        Niether is this:
        “the half-life of CO2 and methane are both ~5 years”

        This is just another zombie myth. You have been intentionally duped into confusing the “half-life’ of a single molecule with the half life of the whole plume of CO2. Yes, an individual molecule might only be in the air for a few years, but they are being constantly exchanged with ‘new’ molecules from the ocean for example, so the plume lives on – in terms of a human lifetime – forever.

        “17– 33% of the fossil fuel carbon will still reside in the atmosphere 1 kyr from now, decreasing to 10– 15% at 10 kyr, and 7% at 100 kyr. The mean lifetime of fossil fuel CO2 is about 30– 35 kyr”

        Did you get that? A significant fraction is still there in 100,000 years.

        • Great news, isn’t it Loy-doh !

          No matter what the CO2-Doomers do, with China, India and many other countries increasing their release of sequestered carbon, global emissions of CO2 will continue to increase.

          Atmospheric CO2 will continue to climb. to the benefit of all life on Earth.

          And there is absolutley nothing your silly little troll-like posts can do about it 🙂

        • “A significant fraction is still there in 100,000 years.”
          You actually believe that? I seem to recall that the half-life of CO2 is one or two decades.

          And if it was 100,000 years, so what? The level would still be far, far lower compared to the history of the planet. When many of today’s species first eveolved, CO2 was 10 to 20 times higher than today. During the last Ice Age, Earth barely escaped a huge mass extinction due to the fall in CO2.

          If CO2 were any higher over the next thousands of years, then conceivably it might make the next ice age a tiny bit milder: perhaps the ice sheets would only be nine miles thick instead of ten miles thick.

          Sorry, Loydo, but you’re deluded. All the science and the data shows that enhanced CO2 and the mild global warming we enjoyed in the last century has been a huge benefit for mankind and the planet. If there had been no modern global warming then we would still be in the depths of the Little Ice Age, a time of starvation, disease and death. Surely you wouldn’t want that – would you?

          • Thats crap, but if its true. Lol.
            Its true and you really need to be drowning in koolaid to believe such an abrupt climatic change is going to be beneficial, on top the other thousand cuts we’ve subjected the biosphere to.

          • Loydo- please supply the empirical evidence to back up your ‘that’s crap’ comment and your claim that we are experiencing ‘abrupt climate change’. I’m getting really tired of all this ‘billions will die!’ , ‘we’re all going to drown/starve/burn’ and ’10 million climate refugees by (insert scary, convenient date)!’ without ANY hard facts to back up the hysteria.

          • “abrupt climatic change”

            Oh look a new fantasy.

            This Doomerism of yours is eating into what is left of your limited mentality, Loy-doh !

            The Biosphere provably expands under increased atmospheric CO2.

  2. I seem to recall that the 200 odd million Indian cattle are omitted from “Greenhouse gas” responsibility statistics? Can anyone confirm? A back of the envelope calculation I did a few years ago seemed to show that the 100 million North American cattle were in the same “biomass on the hoof” as the buffalo which roamed the safe CO2 plains until the mid 19th century.

    • There are half again to twice as many cattle in North America today as in c. AD 1600. But bovids aren’t the only ruminants or other methane producing ungulates in the picture.

      • Really?
        Bison were populous from the West coast to the East coast.
        Along with herds of deer, elk, antelope, moose, etc. etc.

        Whenever someone makes an absurd claim, they really should post the entire detail including data and what desk jockey prepared the estimates.

      • My research found: approximately 100 million bison when Europeans came to America, and 93 million head of cattle plus 200,000 bison, today.

    • Everything you just said is true. However, you’re overlooking the Scapegoat Principle: “No problem is so complex or longstanding that it can’t be blamed on your favorite bugaboo.”

    • Al Gore is heavily invested in fake “meat,” , so that explains all of this. His ilk are all invested in ruining farming. It’s the new coal. Farmers are a whole heck of a lot more popular though. It’s everyone’s bread and butter.

  3. If climate change is real then to alleviate the burden of all those emissions from livestock all we have to do is nothing, climate change will solve the problem. Droughts, floods and fires which as we all know are caused by climate change and emission destroys more livestock and livelihoods than any mass movement to veganism. The current drought in parts of Australia have done wonders for our agricultural emissions. If only the power generation , motor vehicle and airline industries are just as easy.

    • …and that a large and essential number of that world wide rice production is planted, havested, and fertilized by oxen, cows, and water buffalo. What makes that utility economically possible is a large meat and dairy industry. No cows == not enough rice where it must be grown locally.

      BTW, as an Irish-surnamed American I take no offense in your post, but “paddies” is the plural for land plots dedicated to growing rice. We Paddys prefer potatoes — with steak, of course.

  4. Giving up meat won’t save the climate.

    The climate does not need to be saved, it is doing fine. So-called GHG emissions have only a small or no effect at all.

  5. An excellent article Charles that should be sent to all news outlets around the world .
    Unfortunately most would not publish as it does not support their narrative .
    I read this report when it came out in 2006 and I knew that it was seriously flawed but I am only one farmer fighting back as stupid governments and dumb bureaucrats try their worst to wreck New Zealand’s and the worlds economy .
    On the map of the world provided Oceania has very small livestock farming compared with the rest of the world but New Zealand exports the most dairy products of any country in the world ,around a third of all international dairy trade .
    Our Beef and lamb, mutton and wool exports are also quite significant in world trade.
    I have always maintained that this study was flawed and I believes it was undertaken to boost propaganda to
    destroy animal farming.
    I wrote here yesterday that biogenic methane from farmed livestock is not a problem and it does not add one atom of carbon into the atmosphere.
    Every mouthful of forage that animals eat has absorbed CO2 and a small amount of methane is belched as the microbes in their stomachs digest cellulose ,{ what is not generally understood is that the microbes travel on through the other stomachs and are absorbed as food }
    The methane is broken down in the upper atmosphere in between 8 to 12 years into CO2 and water vapour .
    Not one atom of carbon is added to the atmosphere as the process is a cycle .
    Biogenic methane emissions were included in the Kyoto climate accord with no proper scrutiny and any scientist can quickly see that this is a rort introduced by activists and accepted by politicians because it fits with their desire to control .
    Proud to be a farmer feeding the world with milk and meat products .
    Graham Anderson

    • Not one atom of carbon is added to the atmosphere as the process is a cycle .

      In a sane world the debate would always just come back to that simple fact.

      We don’t live in a sane world.

    • Well stated Gwan.

      Raising cattle, just like burning woodchips in Drax or biomass, is carbon neutral.

      It does NOT add any carbon to the carbon cycle over its lifetime.

      On the other hand, there is absolutely no problem with releasing sequestered carbon back into the carbon cycle, ie fossil fuel burning.

      An expanded carbon cycle is totally beneficial to all life on this planet.

      More carbon.. more life !!

    • Well, it’s worse than that. Since the industrial revolution, CO2 concentration has grown from a staggering 3 in 10,000 molecules of air, to 4 in 10,000 molecules, and that is causing climate change (Apparently).

  6. A rancher told me that ‘big food’ was in favor of a plant based diet. The idea is that plant products are cheaper for them to buy and the markup is greater.

    • hes right
      theres a huge trend at the moment to add whats basically cheap fillers to most baked goods bread and petfoods as well
      hugely processed pea protien very cheap and boosts protien but profit even more
      all the supposedly grainfree dog foods selling at near 10x the per kilo cost of “normal food”
      is peaprotien based to up the label tally and the meat contents not much different from the norm

      sadly its being reported to be producing serious health problems in some breeds of dog so far and prob more as it keeps going
      a cardiomyopathy from what Ive seen so far in Large breeds mostly cos they eat more of it.

      nutrition and yuppie foods and supplements markets now take most of the food waste that was animal food before
      skins peels even the water used to wash n process spuds is now sold at a price for valueadding by manufacturers and other production use
      your chocolate has the cocoa butter removed for sale at high prices elesewhere and the fats are replaced by cheap nasty muck that might make the choc not melt on your fingers but shortens its keeping ability to 6mths or less and warm climates its turning to powder in a warm summer in the cupboard.
      oh and you pay far more for a reduced size block(cadburys etc)

      the cattle in the top pic are both feeding mothers and in bad condition by the way. whatever that bush is its NOT cow food.

      CAFO grain feeding cattle with massive antibiotic use in feed and or in ear pellets to promote growth is abusing animals and does make serious hazards from waste lagoons, ditto piggeries. freerange is best for both with large volumes of land to move them around on.
      the amount of weeds just one sheep was removing frommy 3 acres is/was huge
      far more than I realised at the time.
      more freerange animals between crop plantings would benefit everyone and the environment.
      as well as allowing them to graze scrubby parklands to prevent the massive buildup of trash n weeds.

    • Doesn’t that mean we’ll need more CO2 to feed all the extra plants? Just filled my car up and Shell promised to plant trees to offset the CO2 my driving will emit which strikes me as odd- won’t the extra trees that they plant need more CO2 as well? I clearly need to do more driving in my V8 to generate food for all these poor plants…..

  7. bullcrap….you own graph shows it’s China, East, and Southeast Asia doing it

    …the ones that get paid to increase their emissions

  8. “if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6 percent.”

    That’s a big difference from 51%, did they think that their minions would believe whatever the religious leaders pulled out of there… Top of their head?

    If all animals around the world was to suddenly die, all of the hay and grass that they no longer could eat would rot in winter time and turn into methane and carbon dioxide anyway. (just as the leaves on the trees do every winter) it would not make a difference.

  9. A question, would not the fed for cattle (grass, plant material) not just rot or be eaten by other animals giving off about the same amount of methane. Is there a difference in the amount of methane produced depending on how it’s broken down??

    • Anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of plant material produces methane gas. Aerobic (with oxygen) decomposition produces CO2 and H20. Anaerobic conditions are found in septic tanks, swamps and the intestines of animals.

  10. The controversy about diet is really but one case of a larger issue about how the planet’s resources should be used, which is: Should we (1) breed as many people as possible, even if it means they’re all going to be poor to the point of starvation; or (2) have only those children we can endow so that they’re comfortably wealthy?

    This is no joke. The principal group that actually believe in and practice option (1) are the Hindi, but to a lesser extent all countries too poor to have Social Security practice it.

    But I believe the only moral answer is (2), and that that is the whole point of western civilization.

    Behaviors such as eating meat; driving; and living in single family homes are simply what wealthy people do, and any criticism of them should be answered by accusing the critic of following option (1).

    While we’re at it, we need to immediately stop all subsidies to, and admissions of refugees from, groups and places that follow option (1), including our own poor.

    • You have fallen afoul of the “False Dichotomy” fallacy.

      Since each human can produce wealth, there is no reason more people can’t all live comfortably. You are dead wrong on the point of western civilization. In fact it was the large families of the past that powered our civilization to our current wealthy position. Poor nations are not poor because of large family sizes. Often government corruption and war are the leading cause of poverty.

      Our small family size is a result of wealth; wealth is not the result of small family size.

      • The point I was making is, either we figure out how to get poor countries to stop irresponsible breeding (preferably by making them rich), or they will overrun us (as is happening now in Europe but more so) and then either we have border guards massacring the invaders, or life worth living is OVER.

  11. I can see the “eat” in meat, but refrain from meat for reasons other than climate alarmism. I do not support imposed “meatless” food serving &, for that matter, my grazing cows are mainly reared for selling to be slaughtered.

    Thanks for pointing out FAO’s details meriting correction. Reminds me of the old MarkTwain jab how “rumor travels halfway around the world before truth gets it’s pants on”.

    WUWT readers may not know it but many livestock operators deliberately grow soil-less barley fodder with water (kind of hydroponically) , instead of relying on seasonal pasturing. There are ruminant dietary details to nuance, but I will leave those aside for now.

    In 1 year 200 tonnes per hectare of 8 day old barley grass can be produced in a sequence of 25 harvests. To produce 1 ton of this 8 day old barley grass only requires 1.58 cubic meters of water per ton. However, it should be understood that this specific productivity data is for relatively mild temperatures of 23 – 25*Celsius.

    Anticipating some curiosity I will add that similar alfalfa (8 day fodder, 25 harvests, soil-less) yield would be 194 tonnes/hectare/year & requires 1.92 cubic meter of water/ton; while similar young wheat fodder would produce 131 tonnes/hectare/year & require 1.8 cubic meters of water/ton; & young sorghum fodder would produce 145 tonnes/hectare/year & require 1.71 cubic meters of water/ton.

    • few chaps in aus have saved their farms n stock doing it
      very clever
      but you have to grow some out for the seed or buy in

  12. Intelligent people should understand that livestock are carbon neutral. If they don’t eat vegetation it decomposes naturally and emits GHGs.

  13. Methane The Irrelevant GHG. (CH4) has narrow absorption bands at 3.3 microns and 7.5 microns (the red lines). CH4 is 20 times more effective an absorber than CO2 – in those bands. However, CH4 is only 0.00017% (1.7 parts per million) of the atmosphere. Moreover, both of its bands occur at wavelengths where H2O is already absorbing substantially. Hence, any radiation that CH4 might absorb has already been absorbed by H2O. The ratio of the percentages of water to methane is such that the effects of CH4 are completely masked by H2O. The amount of CH4 must increase 100-fold to make it comparable to H2O.

    Because of that, methane is irrelevant as a greenhouse gas. The high per-molecule absorption cross section of CH4 makes no difference at all in our real atmosphere. It cannot contribute to atmospheric warming or climate change.

    Here in BBC blubber land we get hammered every single day. The UK has only 0.67% of the planets 1.4 billion cows and most every one is grass fed. Last Friday Dame Jane Francis said “warming in Antarctica is accelerating, 100 million years ago Antarctica was like Tasmania now a lush green rainforest with a temperature of maybe 30C”. Lowest ever temperature in Antarctica was recorded in 2013 of minus 94.7C therefore over 100 million years Antarctica has cooled by 124.7C. This morning Prof Hilmar Gudmundsson said warming was now instantaneous in Antarctica because they have modelled the calving of ice sheets but it might take two or three hundred thousand years but the effect on sea level is instantaneous.

    The planet is burning but here in the UK we have a gas fault which is causing real harm with no heating in hundreds of houses putting children at risk. Michael Portillo in Queensland where thermal coal is being exported at 160,000 million tons a year from one port. But no coal no gas and no oil so how do we transition from coal oil gas and nuclear to our green clean utopia??

    • “David Wells December 2, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      CH4 is 20 times more effective an absorber than CO2 – in those bands. However, CH4 is only 0.00017% (1.7 parts per million) of the atmosphere.”

      That is misleading. It is because those bands are transparent to CO2, therefore CH4 absorbs all that IR in those bands. But I agree, totally irrelevant due to it’s very low concentration. To have any impact on reducing CH4 you’d have to destroy all forests and kill all termites.

  14. As a Brazilian with access to the best and tastiest beef in the world, I won’t give it up either. Ecoterrorists can go to hell.

  15. As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming…

    I’d like to see Frank M. Mitloehner, Professor of Animal Science and Air Quality Extension Specialist, University of California, Davis, make that case.

    These people live on a planet where fantasy governs reality.

    • He says it because that’s what he’s been told. He is a professor of animal science not climatology. He has no more understanding of the nuances of climate science than Joe Blow. He’s been told incessantly by news media and activists that this is so, and he just accepts and repeats it. I would hope that if I ever mouth off about animal husbandry that I won’t be so naive, but no guarantees.

      There’s many an academic who’ve been drawn in by the climate crisis hoax simply because they’ve been told it’s an “Us vs Them” controversy, where noble scientists are battling against an army of great unwashed ‘deniers’. They assume their brother scientists are telling them the truth.

      • One wonders if he can read a graph, or knows to investigate the accuracy of his statements before uttering them.

        There’s no particular global trend in extreme weather events.

        It’s not hard to discover that there’s nothing alarming at all going on.

  16. One obvious mistake with the “whole lifecycle” analysis is that if we give up beef, we have to replace it with something. A lot of the lifecycle CO2 emissions are overhead that is required regardless of what the food is (e.g. transportation, retail, cooking).

    The author was correct in that not all land is good for growing plant based protein. I don’t think here in Canada we have any land suitable for growing protein crops.

  17. Cows are carbon neutral.

    That cannot give out any more CO2/carbon than they take in.

    They cannot and do not add carbon to the carbon cycle.

    That is the whole assumption behind burning woodchips at Drax in the UK.

    • Fred: right on! I’ve argued this before, even using the thinking behind the Drax power station using “green wood chips” but it seems even a lot of scientifically literate sceptics do not think holistically and certainly such as the very reasonable Prof Mitloehner completely miss this.

      The cow is even greener than the Drax power station. The grass and shrubs eaten by the cow begin regrowing the instant they are bitten off. The hardwood burned at Drax takes 75 years to grow back. One could logically say eating vegetarian cattle makes us vegetarians. What is the difference between a cow manufacturing meat from grass and Al Gore making meat from grass in his vegan enterprise?

      It is worth reiterating that cattle, and other meat animals do not add one molecule of “Carbon” to the Carbon Cycle. Indeed we even reduced the wild meat animals ny the millions to make way for farms and animals.

  18. “As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming”… I must not have been paying sufficient attention at the time but I did not notice any change yet. The sun continues to shine, the seasons come and go, the wind blows, rain falls and people continue to complain about the weather.

  19. Should we not also be concerned about the number of pets in the world? If we are really want to follow this avenue we should start be reducing the pet population which be one study was equivalent to an additional 17 percent of human population. At least cattle can be eaten. Just so more food for thought!!!

    • yeah PETA got into the RSPCA in aus and we now enforce desexing to register your pup or kitten
      so in about 10yrs there will be very few breeding animals at any age and only very expensive pedigree pets for the rich.
      their claim was to stop so many animals being euthanased thats a laugh cos PETA shelters kill MORE of their inmates than any other group.
      they also say its to stop puppy mills being able to market their badly treated and bred animals
      it wont stop that abuse at all.
      what it will do is remove the ability to have a pet from most childrens lives making them less likely to be empathetic to other life forms, and risking more “troubles” with the animals they do meet due to lack of skills in recognising animals reaction to handling etc.

      and if the waste meat byproducts from our food is not used in petfood?
      where do you reckon it wil end up?

  20. The fundamental error that Professor Mitloehner makes is believing the Left’s anti-meat agenda has anything to do with climate.

    As he points out small scale farmers and herders provide substantial amounts of protein to the 3rd world. That makes them self sufficient for protein. That is something the totalitarians can’t control. And the climate agenda is all about control. The Left won’t be satisfied until they have a “boot on the face of humanity, forever.” Meat they can’t tax or control is their target.

  21. Prior to the settlement of the Great Plains by Europeans, they were the home of a number of large herds of bison. The total mass of these bison is within a factor of 2 or 3 of the total mass of all cattle in the US. The bison herds were “sustainable” in that biosphere. They contributed by their consumption and digestion of vegetative matter just as cattle are today.

  22. So Cows and other grass eaters belch, shit and piss. So what, its Greening the World, including the Third World. But we the none grass eaters also pass Methane as a part of our digestive system.

    The Vegans have like so many other groups jumped onto the Greens wagon to further their own particular cause.

    From the numerous groups with a cause the Greens are just what they need, a vehicle upon which they jump. Look at the TV coverage of any demonstration . In the front will be the banners of the main cause, but following it will be a variety of banners about other causes. ,

    And of course such marches always seem to block the roads used by the law abiding people who just want to do what they want.


  23. ** The agency drew a startling conclusion: Livestock was doing more to harm the climate than all modes of transportation combined.**
    He said this and goes about disproving the “comparison”
    However, the real point is not the comparison but has anyone proved that livestock do ANY harm? NOBODY has shown that emissions actually raise the temperature significantly. So they engage in a not me game. Totally wrong focus.
    I wrote to the professor about this a couple of months ago.

  24. As a climate emergency is thrust upon us, it is clear we need to do something.*

    We will need small, portable, self-contained factories capable of efficiently converting human-inedible plant material into human-edible protein. These should be environmentally-sound in their waste disposal, able to power themselves and not be reliant on fossil fuels. It would also be most helpful if they could self-reproduce.

    Sound far-fetched? Well, we already have some of these factories.

    They’re called cattle.

    * Yes, that was sarcasm.

  25. I was going to say try telling Africans not to keep livestock and eat meat and see how far that gets you, but it seems that has been covered.

  26. “Many critics of animal agriculture are quick to point out that if farmers raised only plants, they could produce more pounds of food and more calories per person. But humans also need many essential micro- and macronutrients for good health.

    It’s hard to make a compelling argument that the United States has a calorie deficit, given its high national rates of adult and child obesity. Moreover, not all plant parts are edible or desirable. Raising livestock is a way to add nutritional and economic value to plant agriculture.”

    One can identifies fools that make these kinds of claims as urbanites.

    Only city dwellers and coddled suburbanites think every square foot of land grows the same amounts of crops.

    The picture at the top of this article highlights the foolishness of that thinking. Those cattle are not standing on land that grows food crops for humans.
    Unless people have developed a taste for sagebrush, tumbleweed and creosote bush.

    The same folks pushing the land=land nonsense are also the ones who push the claim that cattle are fed with grain. Cattle may be fattened with some grain before slaughter; but cattle graze and browse high fiber foods for most of their lives! Feeding cattle grain can and does endanger the bovine’s lives when grain ferments in their multiple stomachs.

    Where I live in Virginia is high clay content soil that is unsuitable for raising human food crops!
    Other areas suffer water shortages, inclement weather, pests etc. etc. herbivores are uniquely able to survive in these often harsh environments eating the coarse plants that thrive there!

  27. The fire in California illustrate the need for cattle sheep and goats to be allowed to graze on the introduced grasses and non native plant species that now exist in chaparral and forest. It is a cheap way to reduce the fuel load, it would reduce the intensity of the fires. Yet, just like logging, gazing has a bad name and I truly believe that the greenies want people to die, it not exactly a belief, more that one green has said there are too many people in the world.

    • This used to happen in Australia as well as private pets etc. Was banned decades ago…now we have decades of fuel load to burn and that is what it is doing right now.

      I just called the national environment agency on another issue (Because their number on a PLASTIC strip banner was wrapped around the “issue”, “illegal” dumping) and I had to listen to their IVR. 6 options, environment this environment that, sustainability this sustainability that, permit this permit that…all about the environment all about sustainability…eventually getting to option 6, anything else. So I eventually got through to someone and talked about the “issue” and was told, “We don’t deal with that.” call someone else (The local council). How great is Australia?

      • pretty FD at the moment in Vic at least the enviroloons have got a good brip via Andrews and tassies off the charts for greentard ism since they offfshored so many govvy dears down there along with the richer treechangers etc

  28. Of the total land area of or planet of 149 million sq. Km. only 11 million is cropland while 28 million is considered pasture land. Another 12 million is bush, 39 million is forest and jungle, about 1.5 million is within city limits, but some cities are less than half urban development. Animal husbandry is the best way to economically utilize those 28 million Sq. Km. And the other half of the land area of the planet is rocks, desert, and ice.

    Several countries pay farmers to NOT grow crops on a percentage of their cultivated land in order to keep prices stable enough to ensure economic viability of agriculture in their country. Given enough rain or irrigation, a considerable amount of the animal pasture and bush lands could be made into cropland without the need to develop any of the desert lands, although attempts to grow vegetation in the dessert gets inordinate media coverage.

    People who believe mankind is limited by our present ability to produce food just aren’t in touch with reality. We could produce 3 times as much. At the present time, hunger is the result of failure to distribute the available food, usually due to political strife, poverty, or lack of roads, transportation, and markets.

  29. GUMNET 2..12..19.

    Go see the film “”Solient Green . Simple just eat people, after processing them of course.

    \Mind you it will not of course make any difference to the climate.


  30. A few years ago I did a calculation of approximately how much CO2 the average adult human produces through respiration and it came to about 475 kgms per year, multiply that by 8 billion so worldwide humans produce nearly 4 billion tonnes of CO2 per year – one solution to “global warming – stop breathing.
    There used to be a very good programme on BBC Radio 4 called” Home Planet” in which listeners question about science and environment were answered by an expert panel (it was axed because of its sometimes climate contrarian views).
    Inn one episode there was was a question on the subject on ruminant methane and the soil expert on the panel very forcefully pointed out that in a balanced agricultural system animals are absolutely essential too the heath of the soil, and in many parts of the world people cannot live without them.
    R. I. P good broadcasting.

  31. When sharks, tigers, chimps, dogs and crocodiles become vegan, I will too.

    In the meantime, my Religion requires that I eat meat at least 3 times per day.

  32. ‘Rapidly rising world population’- really? I have read many times how population growth is slowing as developing nations emerge from poverty and will soon peak. Not exactly a shortage of room globally either. In any case, GMOs would surely be a great benefit- which is probably why the eco lunatics hate them…..

  33. Neither your study or the original appears to take into account all of the vehicle emissions involved in the production of animal products from birth to market. These should include transportation of livestock, animal feed and final product (including ship production and journeys where feed is transported internationally). All the emissions associated with manufacturing the % share of transport that is ultimately used by the animal product industry should also be included for a fair final estimate of the impact of animal agriculture on emissions.

  34. What’s conveniently not pointed out there are slightly more cattle today than bison in North America 200 yrs ago. Assume bison and cattle flatulence is about the same, the net-net increase over that time period is negligent. Could you imagine the counter arguments if it was suggested to bring the bison population back to historical levels to replace cattle for food?

  35. For thousands of years ruling elites have tried to suppress meat consumption by the lower classes; high quality protein being necessary for higher brain function they presumably thought keeping the masses stupid made them easier to control. Also, cultures that have a high protein diet are often very war-like as the Mongols, the Zulu and many or most Native American tribes. This is why so many vegans and vegetarians are Progressives; low testosterone and brain function make for a soft and malleable mind and body. Then there is the problem of type-2 diabetes which appears to be caused primarily by excess carb consumption. A high protein, low carb diet prevents and in some cases reverses this destructive disease that is ravaging our population due to the food pyramid hoax perpetrated with NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS!! After every spring round-up I’ve ever participated in the first thing I wanted to eat was a big, thick steak or slab of prime rib; now I’ve broadened my horizons to include elk, buffalo, antelope and, hopefully, some oryx. If God didn’t want us to eat animals He wouldn’t have made them out of meat!

  36. Cattle managed via “Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing” have a negative GHG emission rate if you use the 100 year impact of methane emitted and CO2 drawn down into the soil.


    “We used on-farm data collected from the Michigan State University Lake City AgBioResearch Center for AMP grazing. Impact scope included GHG emissions from enteric methane, feed production and mineral supplement manufacture, manure, and on-farm energy use and transportation, as well as the potential C sink arising from SOC sequestration. Across-farm SOC data showed a 4-year C sequestration rate of 3.59 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 in AMP grazed pastures. After including SOC in the GHG footprint estimates, finishing emissions from the AMP system were reduced from 9.62 to −6.65 kg CO2-e kg carcass weight (CW)−1”

    That is, they acknowledged the methane emissions, but also considered the soil carbon sequestration effects of AMP and determined the net effect was negative CO2-equivalent emissions.

  37. The author is an air specialist. This in of itself is only a small part of the ‘carbon balance’ (if indeed we should really be worrying about increasing carbon in the atmosphere) of the system of agriculture. Soil holds large amounts of carbon and the usage of the agriculture on it has a large impact on exactly how much carbon is held in this topsoil. Various presentations by Dr Peter Ballerstedt shows that grazing pasture has much greater carbon reserves including depth over monocropped soils. The soils also are more resistant to erosion preventing topsoil loss.

    So if they were actually serious about the environment they (activists) would be trying to stop these monocropping practices that deplete the soil, need large amounts of fertilisers to even grow and herbicide treated for a uniform end product.

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