Thursday, December 10, 2009

Researcher at a top agriculture school says not to blame animal agriculture for climate change

A researcher at the University of California, Davis says a popular perception that consuming less meat and dairy products will help stop climate change is simply not true. Frank Mitloehner, a UC Davis associate professor and air quality specialist, says promoters of events like "meatless Mondays" seem to be well-intentioned but are not well-schooled in the complex relationships among human activities, animal digestion, food production and atmospheric chemistry. "Smarter animal farming, not less farming, will equal less heat," Mitloehner said in UC Davis release. "Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries."

Mitloehner says most of the public's confusion about the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by livestock comes from a 2006 U.N. report that said, "The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents). This is a higher share than transport." The two sentences were included in the report's summary but nowhere in the body of the report. Mitloehner maintains the U.N. erred when it calculated livestock's emissions all the way from farm to table, but in figuring transportation's role pnly counted fossil fuels burned while driving. He says raising cattle and pigs for food accounts for about 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation creates an estimated 26 percent.

Mitloehner does advocate advancing meat-production methods in developing countries to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, but says developed countries "should focus on cutting our use of oil and coal for electricity, heating and vehicle fuels." (Read more)

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