Livestock may account for 51% of annual worldwide GHG emissions! Dang.  »

A new 2009* report from Robert Goodland, former lead environmental advisor at the World Bank Group, and Jeff Anhang, research officer and environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, revisits the question of the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries. Previously, Livestock’s Long Shadow made the claim that livestock contributed 18 percent of the annual worldwide green house gas emissions. This new report, Livestock and Climate Change, estimates that it’s more like 51 percent, at least. Which is, to put it clinically, a shit ton. And because of issues with data that’s available, they kept the figure as conservative as they could. Fifty-one percent is conservative! 

Goodland and Anhang say this discrepancy with the older study comes from overlooked sources of GHGs and underestimating recognized sources. Apparently Livestock’s Long Shadow saw fit not to include breathing in their calculations. The newer report says that livestock is a human-creation and “a molecule of CO2 exhaled by livestock is no more natural than one from an auto tailpipe.” And because of the growing masses of livestock combined with deforestation, there is no equilibrium such as the older study puts forth. Land use is another issue this report feels is an underestimated source of GHGs. They say that if we reclaim some of the land currently used for grazing or feed production and allow the forest to regenerate, this would significantly reduce GHG emissions. So “free-range” meat isn’t the environmentally sound alternative to factory farming people like to think it is. They also say that choosing a meat that accounts for less GHGs is not going to do much, it’s more important to focus on alternative food sources.  

Goodland and Anhang propose that alternative food sources would reduce GHGs faster than replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. Word, fellas! I mean it seems to me that individuals having a veggie burger instead of beef is easier and faster than redesigning our power infrastructure. But these guys know it’s not going to be that easy (relying on people to accept personal responsibility never is!). The second half of the study goes deep into marketing and business strategy. 

Basically, if this report stands up, it’s a major boost to our movement! We knew that the meat and dairy industries were bad for the environment but we didn’t know how bad. So give the report a read, it’s not that long. Here’s my abstract for it: LIVESTOCK IS DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT SO PUT DOWN THE CHEESEBURGER, JERKS! And that’s why I’m the Super Genius.

*OMG the report is not new, it’s from 2009! Can I do anything right today?! WTF? Don’t be mad at me, my dog is sick, I’m distracted. There is a more recent commentary discussing which number is right, the 18 percent or the 51 percent or something totally different! But if you haven’t read the 2009 report, it’s still worth a read. 

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