A report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization identified livestock as one of the two or three top contributors to the world's most serious environmental problems, including water pollution and species loss. In terms of climate change, livestock are a threat not only because of the gases coming from their stomachs and manure but because of deforestation, as land is cleared to make way for pastures, and the amount of energy needed to produce the crops that feed the animals.Will world governments take action? I doubt it. Enviro-disaster scenarios that excite the popular imagination are usually related to industrial machinery and particularly power conversion machinery. Examples include nuclear power, acid rain, fluorocarbon-ozone and, most recently, global warming. Food-scares usually involve the food as poison with the poison part usually due to industrialization, such as "fast food" or the use of alar on apples. Scare mongers are unlikely to get excited about cow effluents, no matter how real or important, as long as the out-gassing is "natural." If cow-belching could be blamed, say, on an industrial chemical additive to their feed, then the scare mongers just might take it seriously.
All told, livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, according to the U.N. -- more than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet. And it's going to get a lot worse. As living standards rise in the developing world, so does its fondness for meat and dairy.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Is the environment is only harmed by things that are 'scary'?
The LA Times writes that, according to the UN, livestock contribute more to global warming than all transportation put together: