Climate change and the elephant in the room

Livestock farming produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector. That’s all the planes, trains, trucks, buses, cars, and boats on the planet. Exactly how much the livestock farming sector produces varies depending on which study you look at. The most conservative estimate is from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) which puts it at 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions while the highest figure is a paper by Goodland and Anhang which estimates it to be 51% of all emissions.

Some people argue the FAO underestimate the value while Goodland and Anhang overestimate it. Whatever the real answer is we’re not going to tackle global warming without addressing the high emissions from livestock farming the solution for which is a plant-based diet. This is something most people don’t seem to want to acknowledge and I feel a sense of despair after my trip to meat-loving Spain. Even for those who live in Spain and voluntarily want to reduce their emissions the choices are dismal. How much more warming do we have to endure before we acknowledge the elephant in the room?

5 Comments

    1. I thought this was common knowledge. Maybe this is the problem – people are not aware of the contribution livestock farming makes to our greenhouse gas emissions. The FAO were the first to highlight the problem back in 2006 with their publication titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow”.

  1. My understanding is that the predominant cause of GHG from livestock is from ruminants – here, for example. That suggests that the pork-loving Spanish are perhaps not quite so bad as you make out. As a cheese lover and flexitarian I have often wondered whether I’m better reducing my carbon footprint by eating chicken or parmesan …

    1. Yes, that’s right. The methane produced by ruminants is a big part of the problem however pig farming still contributes. According to the FAO the main cause is the manure which they produce:

      http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/themes/en/pigs/Environment.html

      But there’s also all the crops which we could eat but which are instead fed to pigs. The crops require fertilisers and are often trucked around from crop farm to pig farm.

      As for which is worse out of milk or chicken, I don’t know but I’m sure someone has done the math somewhere. This graph puts dairy just above chicken/fish/pork – http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/food-carbon-footprint-diet while this one – http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/986252/lamb_beef_and_cheese_have_largest_food_footprint.html – put cheese above and milk below so I’m not sure what the answer is.

      1. Rachel – Thanks for the links.

        however pig farming still contributes. According to the FAO the main cause is the manure which they produce

        Ahh, pig poo probably helps keeps me warm and clean

        so I’m not sure what the answer is.

        I’ll just feel virtuous after my vegan supper (2nd of the week!) and turn a blind eye to the pasta with parmesan thats due tomorrow 🙂

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