Hot Air: New Zealand climate change documentary

Another day, another climate change documentary. This one follows the story of New Zealand’s climate change negotiations which were first born back in 1989. Since then, like in most other places, New Zealand’s emissions have grown. However the challenges here are slightly different to those in other nations as renewable power already makes up more than half of the domestic power supply. The main contribution to emissions comes from agriculture, particularly dairy. New Zealand supplies about 40% of the world trade in dairy products.

As someone who doesn’t consume dairy products at all it’s very easy for me to say “Ban all the cows!” but I understand that New Zealand needs to sell something to overseas markets to pay for all the stuff it buys from overseas markets. At the moment though, it’s pretty much a banana republic, so what’s the solution?

Back in 2003 a fart tax was proposed which was supposed to put a levy on all livestock for their methane emissions. It was very unpopular and abandoned. Since then, the dairy industry has grown considerably. Even without the climate change problem, New Zealand needs to diversify. It can’t continue with a one-product shop. Perhaps someone needs to start an edible insect industry here? We have the bugs for it:

imgres
Source: http://www.firstlighttravel.com/blog/new-zealand-giant-weta-contender-for-worlds-biggest-bug-status/

Here’s a trailer of the documentary, Hot Air. (h/t HotTopic)

38 thoughts on “Hot Air: New Zealand climate change documentary

  1. The intensified nutrient run-off is causing immense problems for our waterways too. As someone who has dived for decades in the same areas, the decline in visibility in the Bay of Islands has been dramatic. This is not only the result of the extra sediment load, but probably also due the increased run-off of nitrogen and phosphorus into the ocean – which encourages phytoplankton growth. Whatever its cause, it is very noticeable.

    And no, leave the weta alone!

  2. Methane concerns are a distraction. A methane molecule lasts about 10 years in the atmosphere before it degrades to water and some CO2. On average a CO2 molecule will remain in the atmosphere for 100 years before it is sequestered by flora, albeit a less powerful greenhouse gas than methane. However, the 100 year timespan that will increase as emissions increase and flora decreases.

    The worlds bio-chemical balance managed perfectly well before we disturbed it with extensive use of fossil fuels. There were probably more large animals on the planet before we engaged in such extensive farming. Consider the near extinction of North Amercian Buffaloe and the present culling and poaching of many species. We are the only culprit in our use of fossil fuels.

    It is worth noting that the introduction of a bioligocal emissions tax only served to enrage farmers. As a result they formed a strong aversion to the acceptance of climate change and the need to act upon it. From the perspective of commercial dissenters, job done.

    New Zealand may be be a high producer of such emmisions but I don’t regard them as signicant wherever they may come from, or how evenly or otherwise concentrated they may be. Such things are only a dangerous distraction from the more essential endeavour.

    Other effects of farming, such as nutrients, pathogens and silting are very important conservation issues but are best dealt with as a seperate issue from climate change itself. Otherwise, both concerns are further obscured by convoluted argument and the resulting confusions of public opinion. A result which suits well the commercial emmitters of CO2.

    The battle has beeen made intricate by those who would stall progress. It benefits from deconstruction.

    But, it’s OK. Much as it ever was. Improvement continues. Just a bit slow compared with the span of our days but, there will always be some who take up the torch and continue. History shows that they keep on being born, it is ingrained, endless, the truth of our nature when it has not been distorted, indomitable, constantly regenerated and the eventual doom of the solely self serving. Yay is say and thrice yay. Have a nice day.
    tink 🙂

    1. Graham,

      There were probably more large animals on the planet before we engaged in such extensive farming.

      I’m not so sure about this but I haven’t got time to check right now. Did you know that the US alone slaughters 10 billions animals per year for human consumption? This number does not include fish or game. That’s an extraordinary number.

      1. I think you can infer that there must be many more large animals (eg bovids; swine) now than in the pre-agricultural world because livestock farming requires a substantial input of animal feed to augment grazing. So the carrying capacity of the land for natural populations has been greatly exceeded.

      2. BBD

        1. The quantity of available land space has reduced.

        2. If you are referring to methane, it doesn’t last so long in the atmosphere, hence it does not accumulate in the same way as CO2.

      3. No I didn’t. Perhaps not surprising, given they like their burgers and fried chicken etc. I remember vaguely that it requires a lot more land space to produce a pound of meat than the equivalent nutrition in wheat. On the other hand some land can be used for grazing but not suitable for arable. Nevehelless it is likely that land use will have to become more efficient to support population growth. I can’t wait. 🙂

      4. BBD

        ~ err where does the other 69% come from. Might that be the unmentioned fossil fueled power stations, domestic/commercial heating systems, lorries, industrial processes such as the refining of iron and other ores etc etc.

      5. GrahamInHats

        1. The quantity of available land space has reduced.

        That’s a fair point. But, like Rachel, I have a suspicion that the natural-state population densities of bovids and swine are rather lower than those now sustained globally by farming.

        The Ruddiman hypothesis argues that the ‘wrong way’ CO2 and CH4 trends of the last few thousand years are driven by agriculture. See the properly sceptical, Ruddiman et al. (2011) Can natural or anthropogenic explanations of late-Holocene CO2 and CH4 increases be falsified?

        I used to be sceptical of the Ruddiman hypothesis, but it is looking increasingly solid. If it is correct, then it appears that land use change overprinted a natural CH4 emission footprint from wild animals about five thousand years ago (R11 fig. 6).

        2. If you are referring to methane, it doesn’t last so long in the atmosphere, hence it does not accumulate in the same way as CO2.

        This isn’t relevant if the rate of CH4 emission remains above the atmospheric residence period for CH4. If it is – and it is – then the radiative forcing is sustained and will increase if emissions increase further.

      6. Sorry, forgot this:

        ~ err where does the other 69% come from.

        Interestingly, going from non-contentious data, fossil-fuelled energy supply contributes less than agriculture and forestry combined (26% vs 31% respectively according to AR4 in 2007).

  3. From a short but informative background on the GHG footprint of meat production:

    In a 2006 report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. By comparison, it said, all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats accounted for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions.

    1. Copied from from the minor thread:-

      ~ err where does the other 69% come from ? Might that be the unmentioned fossil fueled power stations, domestic/commercial heating systems, lorries, industrial processes such as the refining of iron and other ores etc etc.

      1. I’m on my way to Auckland WordCamp so I’m going to be out of contact for much of the day. I just want to say that it’s true that fossil fuel power stations make up the bulk of our carbon emissions however it’s not enough to simply reduce emissions. Our emissions need to be zero.

      2. We surely can and should stop all industrial CO2 emmisions. Unfortunately we can’t stop all animal emmisions of methane or C02 without slaughtering the lot (inc ourselves).

        Have a god day in Auckland. 🙂

  4. For BBD and interested parties

    – From the Top

    On ruminant numbers and augmented feed.

    The pre-agricultural world had an estimated 86% of present ruminant numbers and possibly 126 % of present numbers, in America (source – Journal of Animal Science). However the process of kill and replace with domestic stock would have been repeated worldwide as we made the transition between hunter-gatherers and farmers.

    Augmented feed requires land space which would once have been used by wild ruminants.

    Further, there has been a long term change in diet (source – History of Man’s Eating Habits), moving more towards arable farming. If not, there would indeed be an increase in ruminant stock. But, according to the earlier link (Journal of Animal Science) there is either; no substantial increase or a decrease.

    On Ruddiman

    Ruddiman showed that most of the Late-Halocene increase in methane was caused by methanogenesis resulting from the exponential increase in rice irrigation, with some (unquantified) ruminant production. His purpose was to show that humans did cause an atmospheric change but not to single out ruminants.

    Ruminant emissions in the present day are not considered significant (source – Alexander N. Hristov, Associate Professor of Dairy Nutrition, Penn State, College of Agricultural Science) .

    On Radiative Forcing.

    The rate of CH4 emission is surely above the atmospheric residence period, otherwise there would not be any increase.

    However it is the consequence that is relevant. The 18% mentioned refers to the Carbon equivalent (GWP weighted) not the CH4 volume. Therefore an 18% carbon equivalent that lasts for 10 years is not as substantial as actual Carbon Dioxide that lasts for 100 years. Plus all the considerable Carbon emissions that are not mentioned.

    On Non-Contentious Data

    Inspecting the element shows that there is no URL link attached. Further, I cannot find any such reference in ARV4. Further, the my thread refers to all GGE emissions.

    As an indicator GGE emissions pie chart for 2004 found lower down the page; shows CO2 at 76.7%, N2O at 7.9%, CH4 at 14.3% and Flourines at 1.1%. The methane is short lived compared with CO2 and is still mostly produced by methanogenesis (source – GHG). For which ruminants are wrongly blamed

    Methanogenesis is not just from rice production but from all rotting vegetation. That includes the recently melting and rotting tundra which is a result of GW, kick started by increases in industrial emissions of CO2.

    On the Short but Informative Background.

    Lord Stern has a Batchelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Economics. I’ll bet he’s never heard of GWP or methanogenesis.

    In Addition

    Most of the increase in livestock has been in Asia. In Europe and USA there has barely been an increase since 1969. (source – FAO).

    It is not so much the existence of GGE’s that is the problem but there sudden rise due to industrial emissions. Our planet’s climate systems are not geared to balance such sudden and unprecedented change.

    On the Point

    I have taken a lot more trouble with this than I usually would because it is vital that we are not distracted. I’ve watched this matter since the early 70’s. It has been constantly stalled by distraction and misinformation. First GW did not exist then it had no impact on Climate Change and now it is cows that are the principle cause.

    We must not take our eye of the ball, or allow distraction to go unchallenged.

    On WordCamp

    How was WordCamp ?

    1. GrahamInHats

      First GW did not exist then it had no impact on Climate Change and now it is cows that are the principle cause.

      I’m not arguing this 🙂 That said, as you spotted, I have borked a link, which doesn’t help. Sorry about that.

      Uncontentious data.

      1. Ruddiman showed that most of the Late-Halocene increase in methane was caused by methanogenesis resulting from the exponential increase in rice irrigation, with some (unquantified) ruminant production. His purpose was to show that humans did cause an atmospheric change but not to single out ruminants.

        Yes, of course. I don’t argue otherwise.

    2. However it is the consequence that is relevant. The 18% mentioned refers to the Carbon equivalent (GWP weighted) not the CH4 volume. Therefore an 18% carbon equivalent that lasts for 10 years is not as substantial as actual Carbon Dioxide that lasts for 100 years.

      The residence time is not relevant if the rate of CH4 emission matches or exceeds the rate of CH4 depletion from the atmosphere.

    3. Graham,

      I had a brief look at your article from the Journal of Animal Science and I’m not really convinced that the population of ruminants is lower today than in pre-industrial times. I’m not sure that that’s what the article is saying. However, I’ve only had a quick glance and it’s probably not all that relevant anyway. What is important is that livestock make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Recognising this is not taking our eyes off the ball, indeed, it is looking right at the ball. Livestock farming contributes to climate change. No one disputes this. Tackling climate change means we have to tackle this problem in addition to all the others.

      I’ve downloaded this recent article in the Journal of Nature Climate Change called Ruminants, climate change and climate policy

      Greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant meat production are significant. Reductions in global ruminant numbers could make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation goals and yield important social and environmental co-benefits.

      Although a main focus of climate policy has been to reduce fossil fuel consumption, large cuts in CO2 emissions alone will not abate climate change. At present non-CO2 greenhouse gases contribute about a third of total anthropogenic CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions and 35–45% of climate forcing (the change in radiant energy retained by Earth owing to emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases) resulting from those emissions1 (Fig. 1a). Only with large simultaneous reductions in CO2 and non-CO2 emissions will direct radiative forcing be reduced during this century (Fig. 1b). Methane (CH4) is the most abundant non-CO2 greenhouse gas and because it has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime (~9 years) than CO2 it holds the potential for more rapid reductions in radiative forcing than would be possible by controlling emissions of CO2 alone.

      There are several important anthropogenic sources of CH4: ruminants, the fossil fuel industry, landfills, biomass burning and rice production (Fig. 1c). We focus on ruminants for four reasons. First, ruminant production is the largest source of anthropogenic CH4 emissions (Fig. 1c) and globally occupies more area than any other land use. Second, the relative neglect of this greenhouse gas source suggests that awareness of its importance is inappropriately low. Third, reductions in ruminant numbers and ruminant meat production would simultaneously benefit global food security, human health and environmental conservation. Finally, with political will, decreases in worldwide ruminant populations could potentially be accomplished quickly and relatively inexpensively.

      And then the authors discuss policy:

      Although policymakers strive to reduce fossil fuel emissions, the livestock sector has generally been exempt from climate policies and little is being done to alter patterns of production and consumption of ruminant meat products5, 10. Annual meat production worldwide is growing rapidly, and without policy changes is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 2000 to 465 million tonnes in 20504. The greenhouse gas footprint of consuming ruminant meat is, on average, 19–48 times higher than that of high-protein foods obtained from plants (Fig. 2), when full life cycle analysis including both direct and indirect environmental effects from ‘farm to fork’ for enteric fermentation, manure, feed, fertilizer, processing, transportation and land-use change are considered. Non-ruminant meats such as those from pigs and poultry (and marine fisheries) have a lower carbon equivalent footprint, although they still average 3–10 times greater than high-protein plant foods (Fig. 2). Pigs and poultry also consume feed that could otherwise be more efficiently consumed directly by humans.

      Moving forwards, there are steps that governments and international climate negotiators can take to curb global ruminant increases and reduce emissions from the agricultural sector. Reducing meat consumption as a demand-side mitigation action offers greater greenhouse gas reduction potential (0.7–7.3 Gt CO2e yr−1) than the supply-side measures of increased crop yields (0.2–1.9 Gt CO2e yr−1) or livestock feeding efficiency (0.2–1.6 Gt CO2e yr−1) (Table 2 in ref. 5). In terms of short-term climate change mitigation during the next few decades, if all the land used for ruminant livestock production were instead converted to grow natural vegetation, increased CO2 sequestration on the order of 30–470% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production could be expected5, 11. Nonetheless, policies targeting both supply-side measures to improve agricultural production efficiencies and demand-side mitigation for encouraging behavioural changes to reduce meat consumption (particularly ruminant meat) and waste have the best chance of providing rapid and lasting climate benefits5. Influencing human behaviour is one of the most challenging aspects of any large-scale policy, and it is unlikely that a large-scale dietary change will happen voluntarily without incentives12. Implementing a tax or emission trading scheme on livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions could be an economically sound policy that would modify consumer prices and affect consumption patterns12. A tax has recently been successfully modelled for the European Union with tax rates proportional to the average greenhouse gas emissions per unit of food sold10, although social justice, equity and food access issues need to be carefully considered. Such demand-side mitigation measures have more social and environmental co-benefits than supply-side measures5.

      1. Regarding wild ruminants from pre-industrial times, it’s hard to find numbers for this, but Graham is right in that there were huge herds of wild ruminants in both America and Africa in the past. These herds have largely been decimated and the main source of GHG emissions from ruminants is from our own livestock rather than wild herds. So I don’t want people to think that I’m suggesting we should destroy these wild animals. Definitely not. More than 70% of methane emissions are our own doing. From the same source, we are looking at five-and-a-half billion cattle and sheep by mid-century. Cattle currently number about 1.4 billion. Perhaps wild herds of ruminants once numbered in the billions too but I can’t find any data to back this up and it seems somewhat irrelevant anyway. The article Graham linked to assumed a pre-industrial population of bison for the US of 50 million.

        The other argument is that methane is short-lived in the atmosphere, which is true, but the concentration of it in our atmosphere is still going up.

        methan graph

        I also looked up the recently released IPCC report to see what it had to say about livestock and emissions:

        Studies based on integrated modelling show that changes in diets strongly affect future GHG emissions from food production (Stehfest et al., 2009; Popp et al., 2010; Davidson, 2012). Popp et al. (2010) estimated that agricultural non‐CO2 emissions (CH4 and N2O) would triple by 2055 to 15.3 GtCO2eq/yr if current dietary trends and population growth were to continue. Technical mitigation options on the supply side, such as improved cropland or livestock management, alone could reduce that value to 9.8 GtCO2eq/yr, whereas emissions were reduced to 4.3 GtCO2eq/yr in a ‘decreased livestock product’ scenario and to 2.5 GtCO2eq/yr if both technical mitigation and dietary change were assumed. Hence, the potential to reduce GHG emissions through changes in consumption was found to be substantially higher than that of technical mitigation measures. Stehfest et al., (2009) evaluated effects of dietary changes on CO2 (including C sources/sinks of ecosystems), CH4, and N2O emissions. In a ‘business‐as‐usual’ scenario largely based on FAO (2006), total GHG emissions were projected to reach 11.9 GtCO2eq/yr in 2050. The following changes were evaluated: no ruminant meat, no meat, and a diet without any animal products. Changed diets resulted in GHG emission savings of 34─64% compared to the ‘business‐as‐usual’ scenario; a switch to a ‘healthy diet’ recommended by the Harvard Medical School would save 4.3 GtCO2eq/yr (‐36%). Adoption of the ‘healthy diet’ (which includes a meat, fish and egg consumption of 90 g/cap/day) would reduce global GHG abatement costs to reach a 450 ppm CO2eq concentration target by ~50% compared to the reference case (Stehfest et al., 2009). The analysis assumed nutritionally sufficient diets; reduced supply of animal protein was compensated by plant products (soy, pulses, etc.). Considerable cultural and social barriers against a widespread adoption of dietary changes to low‐GHG food may be expected (Davidson, 2012; Smith et al., 2013, 11.4.5).

        A limitation of food‐related LCA studies is that they have so far seldom considered the emissions resulting from LUC induced by changing patterns of food production (Bellarby et al., 2012) . A recent study (Schmidinger and Stehfest, 2012) found that cropland and pastures required for the production of beef, lamb, calf, pork, chicken, and milk could annually sequester an amount of carbon equivalent to 30─470% of the GHG emissions usually considered in LCA of food products if the land were to be reforested. Land‐related GHG costs differ greatly between products and depend on the time horizon (30─100 yr) assumed (Schmidinger and Stehfest, 2012) . If cattle production contributes to tropical deforestation (Zaks et al., 2009; Bustamante et al., 2012; Houghton et al., 2012), land‐use related GHG emissions are particularly high (Cederberg et al., 2011). These findings underline the importance of diets for GHG emissions in the food supply chain (Garnett, 2011; Bellarby et al., 2012). A potential co‐benefit is a reduction in diet‐related health risks in regions where overconsumption of animal products is prevalent (McMichael et al., 2007).

  5. Lord Stern has a Batchelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Economics. I’ll bet he’s never heard of GWP or methanogenesis.

    I think that’s a risky bet 😉

    Have you come across the Stern Review?

  6. I do like that you have so much renewable energy in New Zealand. I can forgive you the cows for that. Although as you say, a little diversity in what you produce wouldn’t go amiss.

  7. For Rachel and BBD

    Whilst I do not wish to diminish the role of atmospheric methane, I began with the premise that our eco-system can cope with the consequence of natural biology and therefore it must be our industrial intervention that was causing the problem. Therefore:-

    From Houweling et al. (1999), synopsis table from Wiki (second section) it emerges that; the quantity of energy/fossil fuels methane emissions (from extraction, refinement, venting at 110 Tg/a) are very nearly the same as ruminant emissions (at 115 Tg/a. Add to this methane from landfill (at 40 Tg/a), biomass burning (at 40 Tg/a) and waste treatment (at 25 Tg/a) and rice paddies (at ~ 25 Tg/a – various sources).

    From Kirshke 2103 (Three decades of methane emissions) Table 1 it emerges that; the methane emissions from fossil fuels are confirmed. However, the atmospheric growth rate of methane has greatly declined (from other sources – a slight increase recently). From the same Table, that decline being almost solely due to an increase in Tropospheric Hydroxyl, which deplete methane levels.

    From the University of Toronto -( Methane and Carbon Monoxide in the Troposphere); it emerges that ozone and nitrogen compounds/radicals are essential to the process of Hydroxyl creation and it’s destruction of methane. Most particularly; “In summary, NOx plays a very important role in the methane oxidation cycle. If it is sufficiently abundant, it closes the loop of a cycle that regenerates hydroxyl. In its absence, the cycle terminates abruptly and methane becomes a sink for hydroxyl”.

    I make, what I think to be, reasonable conclusions from this:-
    If industry had not damaged the ozone layer, we would not have had as much of a problem with methane.
    If industry had not caused additional methane emissions, then the depletion system would not have been overborne.
    If industry even reduced such emissions then, with present Hydroxyl levels, depletion would outstrip emissions and the problem would be resolved.
    Sudden tampering with the nitrogen cycle would be dangerous. Livestock manure being a significant part of that cycle.
    Nature takes care of itself. It is our industrial processes causing relatively sudden excesses and tampering that causes the problems.
    Just one final note. I am always wary when the major victims, in this case the third world and farmers in general, end up suffering the major burden of correction. It tweaks my nasty suspicious mind, especially when opinion has been “spun” by the major players omitting information about their own contributions to the problem.

     

    How was Wordcamp anyway. ?

    1. Sorry, Graham. I keep forgetting to answer this question and I only just realised this comment of yours was stuck in moderation for some reason. Sorry about that! WordCamp was fabulous. I loved it.

      1. Thats alright. They tend to get stuck if the number of links exceed the number permitted in “settings”. Probably wise as it helps to keep out spam. 🙂

      2. Graham

        As the correspondent who didn’t understand that the atmospheric residence time of CH4 is an irrelevance if exceeded by the sustained emission rate you are in no position to talk about limitations.

        Throughout this exchange you have persistently declined to acknowledge this fundamental error and a maintained a tenacious defence of an irrelevant argument. Why remains a mystery unless it is that you are incapable of admitting that you are wrong.

    2. From Ruminants, climate change and climate policy linked by Rachel but apparently unread by you:

      There are several important anthropogenic sources of CH4: ruminants, the fossil fuel industry, landfills, biomass burning and rice production (Fig. 1c). We focus on ruminants for four reasons. First, ruminant production is the largest source of anthropogenic CH4 emissions (Fig. 1c) and globally occupies more area than any other land use. Second, the relative neglect of this greenhouse gas source suggests that awareness of its importance is inappropriately low. Third, reductions in ruminant numbers and ruminant meat production would simultaneously benefit global food security, human health and environmental conservation. Finally, with political will, decreases in worldwide ruminant populations could potentially be accomplished quickly and relatively inexpensively.

      * * *
      You above:

      Just one final note. I am always wary when the major victims, in this case the third world and farmers in general, end up suffering the major burden of correction. It tweaks my nasty suspicious mind, especially when opinion has been “spun” by the major players omitting information about their own contributions to the problem.

      No idea what you are talking about.

      1. Graham, we are talking about policy directed at controlling the future growth of methane emissions. Somehow this seems not quite to be registering with you.

      2. Of course I read it. As for having no idea what I’m talking about, that is your own limitation.

        As for not registering this is about policy; of course it is, talking all factors into account and balancing their effect. Incidentally, according to Kirshke et al Oct 2013 page 815, “Consideration of the natural fossil CH4 source, neglected in previous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments, thus represents a significant update to the global CH4 budget, although it is still debated.”

  8. As an addendum.

    I’m sorry but you must have come across some tainted data. It happens easily enough these day. The 1o billion cattle slaughtered in USA should be 788,000 (source USDA-1 ) in 2013. Total resident cattle in USA 95M (source USDA -2) and download the pdf from current documents.

    The full statement from the Journal of Animal Science was “Overall, enteric CH4 emissions from bison, elk, and deer in the presettlement period were about 86% (assuming bison population size of 50 million) of the current CH4 emissions from farmed ruminants in the United States.” That is, the “50 million bison” was only part of 86% calculated. The other ruminants being also reduced in number and replaced with domestic.

     

    1. The 1o billion cattle slaughtered in USA should be 788,000

      I think you may have misunderstood that.

      USDA 2013 figures:

      Commercial cattle slaughter during 2013 totaled 32.5 million head, down 1 percent from 2012, with federal inspection comprising 98.4 percent of the total. The average live weight was 1,314 pounds, up 12 pounds from a year ago. Steers comprised 50.1 percent of the total federally inspected cattle slaughter, heifers 28.6 percent, dairy cows 9.8 percent, other cows 9.8 percent, and bulls 1.7 percent.

      Commercial calf slaughter totaled 762,000 head, 1 percent lower than a year ago with 98.6 percent under federal inspection. The average live weight was 250 pounds, down 10 pounds from a year earlier.

      Commercial hog slaughter totaled 112.1 million head, 1 percent lower than 20 12 with 99.3 percent of the hogs slaughtered under federal inspection. The average live weight was up 1 pound from last year, at 276 pounds. Barrows and gilts comprised 97.0 percent of the total federally inspected hog slaughter.

      Commercial sheep and lamb slaughter, at 2.32 million head, was up 6 percent from the previous year with 91.4 percent by federal inspection. The average live weight was down 8 pounds from 2012 at 135 pounds. Lambs and yearlings comprised 93.7 percent of the total federally inspected sheep slaughter.

      1. My apologies to all for the error. I must have picked up on Cattle, Calves only instead of the the total and 32.5 M is a more reasonable percentage of the resident total.

        Nevertheless, with no disrespect to Rachel, even 32.5 M is substantially less than 10 B. 🙂

      2. My 10 billion included all livestock: cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. I think chickens make up the majority of this number. Will look for a source later but this is something I have verified in the past so I’m pretty sure is accurate and remember that this is just for the US. Meat consumption is growing world wide which is a terrible thing for our environment.

      3. Thanks Graham and Rachel for an interesting discussion. Is this a fair summary (ref Rachel above):

        – We need to keep an eye on the growth of the global ruminant population and its potential climatological impact this century

        – It won’t be a good thing

        – Waving this away might be to take one’s eye off a ball

        Necessary disclosure: I’m not vegetarian.

  9. To Rachel. No need to look. My apologies again. I had wrongly assumed that animals were within the context of this subject. My mistake. It looks as if poultry ia about 9B itself. Thats shocking.

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