Opinion News
May 26,2017

Climate deniers

George Wuerthner

Most environmental/ conservation groups are Climate Change deniers. Specifically, I am talking about the numerous organizations that give lip service to the threat posed by climate change, but don’t even mention to their membership the contribution that livestock production has with regards to rising global temperatures. While most organizations are calling, climate change the environmental issue of our time, they avoid discussing the contribution of animal agriculture in climate change. It is one of those topics that is avoided in any climate change discussions. We hear about the need to reduce fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy. We are encouraged to drive more efficient vehicles or insulate our homes. We are told to turn down the thermostat in winter. Not that these ideas aren’t worthy of action. However, the single easiest and most effective way to reduce one’s personal contribution to global warming is to change one’s diet. Consumption of meat and dairy is one of the biggest contributors to Green House Gas Emissions (GHG) but few organizations are willing to even discuss this problem, much less advocate for a diet change. Indeed, many groups advocate and promote ranching and animal farming, especially if it’s ‘local’ as if locally produced GHG emissions are better than ones produced far away. Here’s the problem. Livestock, particularly, cows and other ‘rumen’ animals have bacteria in their guts that assist in the breakdown of grass and other forage. A byproduct of this biological decomposition is methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and is far more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. So, it takes a lot less methane to have a disproportional effect on rising temperature. Methane breaks down over time to carbon dioxide, but initially, its ability to trap heat is 100 times more efficient than carbon dioxide. This is an important nuance because the time factor affects how you view methane. If you use a 100- year timeline, the ability of methane to trap heat is only approximately 20 times greater than carbon dioxide (because much of the methane has been converted to carbon dioxide), but if you use a 20-year horizon which is far more meaningful in our current situation, then methane is far more powerful and destructive. Any number of recent studies have shown that livestock contributes anywhere from 14.5 percent of global GHG emissions (in a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report) up to a World Watch assessment that includes more of the collateral impacts of livestock production estimates that as much as 51 percent of all GHG emissions are the result of livestock production. And worse for the environment, many organizations promote ‘grass fed’ beef and dairy as if that somehow negates the environmental impacts of livestock. Ironically, because consumption of grass and other ‘free range’ forage is more difficult for rumen bacteria than converting higher quality forage like corn, silage, or soy into energy, grass-fed beef/dairy cows emit more methane over their lives than CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) produced beef/dairy. This is not an endorsement of CAFOs, rather it demonstrates that meat/dairy consumption no matter what the source may be, is counter-productive if your goal is to reduce GHG emissions. Either way what these studies suggest is that eating less beef and dairy is one of the dietary changes that anyone can implement to reduce the personal contribution to climate change. But most environmental organizations while they might be willing to fund campaigns like ‘keep it on the ground’ or advocate for solar panels, refuse to discuss how a meat and dairy diet is destroying the global climate. This article has been excerpted from: ‘Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers’. Courtesy:

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