'Go veggie to save the planet' UN, EU plans debunked
Boffin rubbishes Paul McCartney lentil-noshing plan
Yet more United Nations analysis of the measures necessary to combat climate change has come under fire from scientists.
This time, rather than the (in)famous 2007 assessment report from the UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the criticism is levelled at a 2006 report called Livestock's Long Shadow issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. This document states that the widespread eating of meat and dairy products is a serious threat to the environment.
According to the UN, in fact, livestock actually results in the emission of more greenhouse gases than transport does. The executive summary of Livestock's Long Shadow states that:
The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.
This analysis has been a big factor in persuading concerned citizens around the world that going veggie is important in order to save the planet. No less an ecological expert than Sir Paul McCartney, in alliance with Dr Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC and the European Parliament, has lately exhorted the citizens of the world to veg it up under the slogan "Less Meat = Less Heat".
Eating less meat is "as obvious as recycling or hybrid cars", McCartney told the EU parliament last December. He urged European lawmakers to "encourage, guide, inform and help people in making a relatively easy decision," and hoped that people would think of the children.
"It can be done and it should be done for our children who will inherit this planet," said Sir Paul.
But there's a big problem here, according to Californian agricultural air-quality boffin Frank Mitloehner. The UN report is based on dodgy numbers. He says that the authors of Livestock's Long Shadow calculated the livestock emissions including everything they could think of - those resulting from growing feeds, from animals' burping and farting, from the various industrial processes involved in producing and delivering meat and dairy products.
By contrast, when assessing transport they included only the greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels burned while driving, making no allowance for the huge carbon-equivalences involved in building and maintaining roads, railways, cars, trains, planes and automobiles.
The dodgiest bit of these dodgy numbers is that they included greenhouse gas emissions from every little step of the process of meat getting to your plate, even though most of those apply equally to veggies. After all the average carrot does not jump out of a field and fly to your plate, arriving magically prepared.
And as for cow farts, aren't they offset by vegetarian farts?
In all seriousness however I am getting sick of all the pseudo science surrounding the global warming debate. If we accept for a moment that human activity is causing global warming many of the methods we are encouraged to use to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions simply do not add up. And the main reason for this is that the people dreaming up these methods are either not qualified to do so or have a vested interest.
Surely everybody is aware that scrapping an old car and buying a new one will do much more harm to the environment in the short term than continuing to run the old one, even with it's higher emissions.We all know the manufacture and transport of the new car causes more harm to the environment than driving an older car for years, but somehow we allow politicians to push things like the scrappage scheme as an enviromental solution.
And then there's the fact that big business and politicians use the issue of global warming to sweep other environmental problems under the carpet. Remember when "pollution" meant all sorts of nasty emissions? These days it just means greenhouse gas. Or rather a very select group of greenhouse gasses. It seems that politicians and their pet scientists don't want us to know about some greenhouse gasses. Water vapour? Nah, that's not a greenhouse gas. Is it?
How long before the catalytic converter comes under fire because it reduces fuel economy and so increases the emissions of CO2? On the other hand we're expected to turn a blind eye to the mercury used in "low energy" lightbulbs. And if we don't we're told it's not a problem because there's a tiny amount of mercury in each bulb and they last for ages so disposal isn't a problem. Except they don't last nearly as long as is claimed. And what happens when a factory making the bulbs manages to spill it's entire stock of mercury into the water table? That's not a problem, because mercury isn't a greenhouse gas.
Maybe one day we'll be allowed an open and honest debate on global warming and the causes thereof where interested parties actually present us with facts and figures and not leave anything out. I'm not going to hold my breath while I wait.
Honest presentation is vital
@Shaper: "whether livestock is more or less harmful than transport is not in the least bit relevant."
Understanding the relative harmfulness of any activity is of vital importance. Without this, the data will lead to the inevitable conclusion that humans are bad for the environment. Some people have actually come to that conclusion, but I think it's about as logical as believing that life is bad for your health (which is also true, but meaningless).
If we are destroying our planet - and we also need to be sure this is really the case - we must very clear about how and why it is happening. Otherwise, we will only exhaust our efforts on activities that assuage our guilt but do nothing to remedy the underlying problems. In other words, we will continue destroying the world but feel much better about it. Worse, we may fall victim to those who exploit any popular concern or belief for their own ends.
I am increasingly concerned that science is becoming a puppet in the hands of people who are either seeking power or peddling some ideology (or both). If the public is fed a constant stream of data presented as fact, and a significant proportion of that information is subsequently exposed as misleading or false, all scientific study will be tarred with the same brush.
If we studied the problem honestly, we might discover that eating meat fits into the normal 'circle of life'. But we might also discover that our whole economic model of mass manufacture, consumption, and disposal doesn't add up - and then what would we do?
Can I have the TRUTH, please?
I eat meat AND dairy everyday, and hate vegetables. But I don't buy this Prof.'s conclusions just because they are convenient to my beloved lifestyle.
Can't we have really unbiased studies, PLEASE, to at least know as best as we can what is actually going on, in a fair way?
It's either the ecowarriors preaching doom and gloom and that, whatever we do, we will undoubtedly destroy the world in a few decades, or the industry-shill, everything-is-well-forever-so-keep-consuming, scientist-are-all-corrupt (unless it's a scientist we like, of course, just see El Reg lately) pundits saying we can go on doing whatever we want regardless, because those hippies can't possibly be right and nothing I do can possibly be bad.
I'm sure the truth is somewhere in between, and in different places for different issues. I just would like to know what the reality is! It does not mean I will turn vegan anyway, but I'm not one of those who need to justify my choices to feel less guilty.
OK, so the UN numbers were "dodgy", for whatever reason. Maybe yes, maybe no. Now, has El Reg bothered to check who finances the Prof.'s work, or collaborates with him, for example? Of course not. And what does his just "three percent" of the GHG figure include in the calculations? Just animal farts? Everything but transportation? What? Without that simple info, that was happily supplied about the 2006 report to "debunk" the UN's numbers, it is hard to have an idea whether the Prof's numbers are not equally flawed. If I have to go read and analyze the original reports to get that balanced comparison, then why would I be wasting time reading "journalism"? I would just go directly to the primary sources every time. And no one has the time to do that for everything.
I didn't dig deep at all, just a quick search because I don't have the time now (I thought this "investigating" thing was something journalists should do, but apparently they only do it when they don't like the target or the conclusions). But Frank Mitloehner’s Facebook page (the publicly visible part, and at least for now) says he's a "fan of" the California Beef Council. Hm... OK, another guy under suspicion. Specially since he advocates sending the "Western-style farming practices", you know, quite likely the ones the CBC recommends, to the poor countries. Does not mean he's wrong, but does not bode well.