A recent article published in the “Opinion and Comment” section of the January edition of the journal of Nature Climate Change offers a unique solution for helping to stop global climate change: Stop eating meat.
The article, published by William J. Ripple of the Dept. of Forest Ecosystems and Society
at Oregon State University, and five other academics, centers on the premise that ruminants – cows, sheep and goats – are extraordinarily productive when it comes to flatulence. This flatulence includes methane, a gas that contributes to climate change much more than carbon dioxide. For the record, they also mention in passing that methane is also produced by the oil industry, landfills, biomass burning and rice production. But their target is animal agriculture.
The problem, they say, is that people just eat too much meat, although they acknowledge that hogs and chickens are OK because they produce only tiny amounts of methane. They say too much land is dedicated to grazing and to growing crops to feed cattle and other food animals.
You see, methane is much more efficient as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. They argue that because methane breaks down quicker than carbon dioxide, the way to impact climate change fastest is to reduce the amount of methane in the atmosphere.
It should be noted that the livestock industry estimates only 2% of greenhouse gases come from ruminants.
The article really falls off at this point. Because ruminants produce methane, we need to reduce their numbers or get rid of them altogether, or tax them. “Reducing the numbers of ruminants would be a difficult and complex task,” they wrote.
No kidding. The overarching problem in the world today is too little food, not too many cows. Although climate change is a concern among many of us, staying alive another day is a bigger concern for hundreds of millions of people. The United Nations estimates that 870 million of the 7.1 billion people in the world are chronically hungry. They also estimate that the world population will reach 9 billion by the year 2050 – and keep growing.
The authors argue that using farmland to grow animal feed is “questionable on moral grounds.” Really? Do they not realize that growing animal feed on farmland is used to grow animals which in turn feeds people?
And what about all of the grazing land which is unsuitable for the growing of crops, but
which is well-suited for the grazing (or feeding) of animals, which in turn are used as food for people? The author suggests that this land be turned back to nature. May it be stated that by grazing livestock on it, it is back to nature. They do allow that the animals which eat this vegetation and convert it into protein, allows that land to feed the world. But, to not make use of that land for grazing and growing cattle, as the authors suggest, could in essence sign a death warrant for untold numbers of hungry people in the world.
Yikes. It may be assumed that this article was written to provide food for thought. We hope so, because it sure wasn’t meant to provide for a hungry world!
Opinion page of the January 9, 2014 issue of the Capital Press