Dedicated to the balanced discussion of global warming
This report has been out there for quite sometime but I am still surprised that more environmentalists do not advocate the changing of our diet in order to make a substantial impact on combating runaway greenhouse gases. While CO2 is widely thought to influence the weather of planet Earth, methane is a very large contributor as well. In my opinion, methane is not discussed because the chances of convincing the large meat eating public to drop their reliance on meat as a protein source is far more difficult than blaming multi-nationals like GM, Ford, and Exxon.
It is interesting that there is an increase in meat costs due to the significant cost increases in buying corn since corn is used in ethanol production. So will the production of ethanol and bio-diesel increase the costs of meat enough that the consumer buys less meat such that ranchers will have fewer animals? If we cycle this thought process enough, we could actually eliminate methane production by making meat so expensive so that we can burn bio products. This would do two things: eliminate CO2 and methane. WOW!!
The problems with the above logic are that:
Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history. Yet by focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see today. As a result, they are neglecting what might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes: advocating a vegetarian diet.
Data published by Dr. James Hansen and others show that CO2 emissions are not the main cause of observed atmospheric warming. Though this may sound like the work of global warming skeptics, it isn’t: Hansen is Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies who has been called “a grandfather of the global warming theory.”
When taking into account various gases’ global warming potential—defined as the amount of actual warming a gas will produce over the next one hundred years—it turns out that gases other than CO2 make up most of the global warming problem.
The surprising result is that sources of CO2 emissions are having roughly zero effect on global temperatures in the near-term!
For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists had the data reviewed by other climate experts, who affirmed Hansen’s conclusions. However, the organization also cited climate contrarians’ misuse of the data to argue against curbs in CO2. This contrarian spin cannot be justified.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that sources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all the global warming we’re seeing, and all the global warming we are going to see for the next fifty years.
Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together. Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen by about 31% since pre-industrial times, methane concentrations have more than doubled. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3% of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as all natural sources. In fact, the effect of our methane emissions may be compounded as methane-induced warming in turn stimulates microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands—the primary natural source of methane.
…but the number one source worldwide is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. And this source is on the rise: global meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, and shows little sign of abating. About 85% of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of livestock, and while a single cow releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is enormous.
The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products.
In principle, even 100% reduction could be achieved with little negative impact. In contrast, similar cuts in carbon dioxide are impossible without devastating effects on the economy. Even the most ambitious carbon dioxide reduction strategies fall short of cutting emissions by half.
I based this posting on a high level overview of the report. The overview can be found here. The link to the full report can be found on that site and read from there.
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