Impact of food on the environment

Livestock – predominantly cattle – are responsible for an astonishing proportion of global warming gases – 18 per cent of the total to be precise:

  • a fifth of all emissions which is more greenhouse gas emissions than all the transport on earth

  • seventy per cent of all agricultural land is used to raise animals – that’s a third of the land surface of the entire planet
  • over a third of all cereal production goes to feed those animals
  • animal methane is more destructive than industrial CO2
  • 296 times the global warming power of carbon dioxide, sixty five per cent of human related emissions of nitrous oxide are from the nitrogen in animal manure.

[post at the BBC]

In the accompanying comments, Phillip Barker writes this horrid but probable indictment:

“Your findings and calculations cause me to wonder if human contributions to global warming gases are a wash considering the billions of wild bison, water buffalo, rhinos and elephants no longer producing these dangerous gases due to our eliminating them from the planet.”

But before condemning meats and becoming a vegan, consider these points from Ben Smith:

A critical point that is being missed is where this carbon comes from.

Cars, ships, etc.:
This carbon comes from carbon that has been buried deep underground. It is unearthed, burned, and then released into the atmosphere. Therefore, any carbon released is added to carbon already present in the atmosphere = global warming.

Cows, agriculture:
This carbon comes from the atmosphere. The plants take up the carbon dioxide. Livestock then eat the plants and release the carbon back into the atmosphere. Therefore, any carbon released by the cows was already in the atmospher to begin with (carbon neutral) = no global warming.

The problem isn’t the re-releasing of carbon that was already in the atmosphere (livestock, agriculture), but the unearthing of new carbon sources (gas and coal) and then adding these to the atmosphere.

I’m helping to market “dung dryers” in a few locations in Asia these days, but can’t say much until public announcements are finalized.