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The UN treats us to good news... and bad

Among all the debate on global warming, The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has long been one of the loudest voices. Despite accusations of bias and political motivations, the IPCC has been persuasive in getting many governments to pass environmental legislation.

So when the IPCC releases a new report, downgrading man's impact on the environment by 25% (and lowing predictions of temperature and sea level rise by 50%), one would think this good news would make headline news across the nation. Think otherwise. Such happy news apparently isn't fit for public consumption, according to our mass media.

The media has been even less forthcoming with the details of another UN report, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow. This 400 page report expresses what people who study global warming have long since known-- that the world cattle population is responsible for some 18% of all greenhouse gases, a larger contribution than planes, trains, automobiles, and all other forms of transportation combined.

The report also blames livestock farming for over 100 other polluting gases, including the number one source of ammonia, a major contributor to acid rain. It further blames ranching for deforestation, and ends with a slap at the massive amounts of drinking water used to feed cattle herds, which presumably is taking water from the mouths of thirsty children.

So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds.



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Thus
By ksherman on 12/14/2006 12:32:14 PM , Rating: 2
confirming what vegetarians have suspected: meat kills.




RE: Thus
By ksherman on 12/14/2006 12:44:48 PM , Rating: 2
plus, the only (natural) solution really is for everyone to become vegetarians, thus reducing the overall demand for cattle and thus reducing the overall supply of cattle (over a longer period of time, the short run leaves you with an excess of cattle). Or we could genetically alter our cattle to not need food, water or produce ammonia... which ever comes first :-)


RE: Thus
By borowki on 12/15/2006 11:50:12 AM , Rating: 2
Complete abstinence isn't the only solution. We can always just consume *less*. Eating less meat isn't going to kill you. In fact, it's better for you. The typical American diet is totally out of whack. It contains too much animal fat and not enough vegetable. Cutting back improves both people's health and the environment.

People of course won't do that just because you tell them to. We need to remove all of sort hidden subsidies that make meat artificially cheap. It's ridiculous that a pound of lettuce cost about the same as a pound of beef.


RE: Thus
By masher2 (blog) on 12/15/2006 1:24:24 PM , Rating: 2
> "It's ridiculous that a pound of lettuce cost about the same as a pound of beef. "

Where do you buy your lettuce? Mine cost about a dollar a head, which puts the price well below a dollar per pound. Beef runs anywhere from $3/lb for ground, up to $25+/lb for the best cuts.


RE: Thus
By borowki on 12/15/2006 5:53:35 PM , Rating: 2
Here in North Virginia veggie is really expensive. A head of lettuce is around 3 bucks at a supermarket. Meanwhile, there's government subsidies for tobacco farmers...


RE: Thus
By The Sword 88 on 12/15/2006 4:33:57 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah cutting back is good but completely removing meat is bad for your health too vegatables do not have the same protiens and amino acids as meat.


RE: Thus
By Chris Peredun on 12/14/2006 12:45:59 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
The person who eats beer and franks
With cheer and thanks
Will probably be healthier than
The person who eats sprouts and bread
With doubt and dread


I want to attribute that to John Robbins, but Google as I might, I'm unable to confirm that. Apologies to the original author.


This part is why you won't see CNN reporting on it
By ttowntom on 12/14/2006 1:44:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The world cattle population is responsible for some 18% of all greenhouse gases, a larger contribution than planes, trains, automobiles, and all other forms of transportation combined.
If cows are responsible for only 18%, that means cars contribute even less than that. And thats something the media isnt going to let you know about if it can help it.




By Topweasel on 12/14/2006 3:48:52 PM , Rating: 3
What they don't tell you is that one volcanic eruption emits more green house gas then cars and other automobiles ever have. Global warming is really not affected by us.We are still on a natural upswing from a Mini Ice age that lasted from about 1200-1875. Our big issue is with increased temperatures in Local cities. New York for example has gone up 6-8 degrees in a 125 years (2-3 being a natural increase)were as Albany 50 miles away has only increase 1-2 degrees (less then the average). Just the basic heat output from cars (like the engine), air conditioners, body heat, the reflection of sunlight from sky scrapers, all can be having a huge affect on the increase of local temperatures.

Trust me Global warming is the least of our concerns and should in my opinion should be left to Earth to work out. It whole life it has been going through sporadic changes with 10 year spikes in both directions. What I really don't want to see is environmentalists get their way lowering our fuel efficiency (by making us buy E85) restricting our performance (increase emissions rules) and then bask in the glory of being right, when the truth was we hit part of the natural downturn.


By VooDooAddict on 12/14/2006 4:31:40 PM , Rating: 2
Don't ever start out a point with "Trust me..."


By Topweasel on 12/14/2006 5:00:28 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't I made my point and when re-iterating it I used the term trust me. But Honestly just type in Mini ice age into wikipedia or even Global warming. They will both show that we are on a big spike but the world has been full of them and that we are only now hitting a high point in temperature that was hit prior to the Mini Ice age. We cold still be a a year to 10 years from seeing a drop in avg temp but I don't think their is enough proof to say either that we are increasing the temp or that anything we did now would have had any impact on dropping the temp. Honestly as a whole we are too high on ourselves and that this world that has had life living on it for nearly a Billion years with life on it is going to be its own factor in our avg temp.


By masher2 (blog) on 12/15/2006 1:27:50 PM , Rating: 1
> "If cows are responsible for only 18%, that means cars contribute even less than that"

Those figures are for anthromorphic greenhouse gas emissions-- those generated only by man. But those are only a few percent of the total. Nature generates many times as much as does mankind.

As a percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions, cattle ranching generates just under 1%, and all forms of transportation combined even less than that.


Two wrongs doesn't make a right
By Live on 12/14/06, Rating: 0
RE: Two wrongs doesn't make a right
By Merry on 12/14/06, Rating: 0
RE: Two wrongs doesn't make a right
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 10:17:29 AM , Rating: 3
You guys are missing the point. Politicians and mass media are strongly communicating a message that we must take "urgent action" to reduce "global warming" because it is "human caused." The point of Mr. Asher's articles is to show that, if you research the "global warming" problem for more than 5 minutes, you quickly realize that the facts don't really support the assertions or the proposed solutions. For example, it is clear that further reducing automobile tailpipe CO2 emissions is not an investment that is likely to produce anything more than a feeling like you "did the right thing" - clearly it is not going to affect global warming one bit. Is anyone suggesting that we eat more fish and chicken instead of beef to reduce global warming?

The Bush administration may be wrong in many areas, but their resistance against Kyoto was right on - this will become more and more clear as we begin to understand the reality of global warming, instead of the FUD that we are fed by today's politicians and mass media.


RE: Two wrongs doesn't make a right
By Merry on 12/15/2006 1:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
Is anyone suggesting that we eat more fish and chicken instead of beef to reduce global warming?

I believe the author of this blog is!

Besides having trawled through a significant amount of videos on this matter last night (as i've had nothing better to do since I got back from uni)I'm still not sure one way or the other, so my existing opinion stands.



By ttowntom on 12/15/2006 10:36:42 AM , Rating: 3
Listen to the recent Senate hearings on the media's role in the global warming scare and you'll get all the proof you need. You'll hear stories of scientists being called for interviews, then hung up on if their viewpoint disagrees with the reporter, cases of reporters intentionally misquoting scientists. Of their failing to report any of the research supporting that warming is mostly natural in origin, or that the warming may actually be beneficial to us. You'll hear countless cases of reporters crossing the line from journalism into advocacy, of their arguing with scientists and politicians to promote their viewpoint, instead of just reporting the facts.

You can find the audiocast online at the Senate's website. You sure won't find CNN reporting any of this.


RE: Two wrongs doesn't make a right
By Dfere on 12/18/2006 4:21:29 PM , Rating: 2
I believe this is an editorial? Which is supposed to have an opinion.

Also, IMHO The immediate rush to sensationalism by the media does not do anything constructive about any climatic issue. As a defending point, I point to the recent article published by a scientist who recommended we could inject sulfur dioxide into the air to aid in averting this "environmental disaster". While it might not have been the point of his article to address the overall impact (He might have been simply establishing one method to reduce greenhouse effects), this was touted by the media as a potential "cure".

This is like rushing to cut off one's leg before cancer is confirmed.


Buying the hummer
By brute1248 on 1/13/2007 2:38:02 PM , Rating: 3
Lets go




RE: Buying the hummer
By brute1248 on 1/13/2007 2:38:35 PM , Rating: 2
Lets go


RE: Buying the hummer
By brute1248 on 1/13/2007 2:39:04 PM , Rating: 2
Lets go


RE: Buying the hummer
By brute1248 on 1/13/2007 2:39:46 PM , Rating: 2
Triple post? WTF?


US based enteric fermentation percentage
By v3rt1g0 on 12/14/2006 4:25:02 PM , Rating: 2
Mr.Asher,
Would it be correct to say the U.S., by itself, has a far worse problem with petroleum transportation emmisions vs enteric fermentation?

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloa...
EPA Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990-2004

Section 6.1
Enteric Fermentation (specifically beef cattle) was responsible for
about 83 Tg CO2 Equiv. on avg, producing relatively the same amount annually (-5% 90-04).
83 million metric tons of CO2 Equiv. Annually, on avg

Section 3.1
Emission from Fossil Fuel Combustion for Transportation Use was
about 1612 Tg of CO2 on avg, increasing by ~30 Tg annually, on avg.
1612 million metric tons of Carbon Dioxide Annually, on avg




RE: US based enteric fermentation percentage
By masher2 (blog) on 12/14/2006 4:37:22 PM , Rating: 1
A very good point and, were one to consider CO2 alone, you would indeed be correct. However, cattle are a major source of methane as well...and methane is over 20 times as effective a greenhouse gas as is carbon dioxide.


RE: US based enteric fermentation percentage
By v3rt1g0 on 12/18/2006 3:31:06 PM , Rating: 2
The report already takes that into consideration.

Tg CO2 Equivalent = (Gg of gas) x (GWP) x (Tg/1000 Gg)
Carbon Dioxide has a GWP of 1, while Methane has a GWP of 21 (Global Warming Potential).

The report lists everything as a CO2 equivalent, meaning that the cattle are indeed producing methane, but it is being shown in quantity as an eqivalent amount of CO2.
So if we divided the cattle produced Tg CO2 Eq by 21, we would have the amount of methane.

It's possible I'm reading the data incorrectly, but that almost certainly seems to be what they are showing.


By masher2 (blog) on 12/18/2006 3:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
You're reading it correctly. However, I'd like to point out that methane production (either from agricultural sources or venting during natural gas production) is charged against the country producing the products...even though a substantial amount of those eventually wind up being consumed in the US. This isn't the case with CO2, where the production primarily occurs in conjunction with consumption.

I also think one of the points the UN report was trying to make is that the contribution from methane has been somewhat understated, and that prior source catalogs (such as the 2004 data you cite) may not be complete.

In any case, please don't consider me as vouching for the quality of the UN data, nor their conclusions. Furthermore, to say that one has "more of a problem" with CO2 is to beg the question on whether or not we have a problem with it in the first place. Which is, in my opinion, still a question very much up in the air.


A little irresponsible maybe?
By THEREALJMAN73 on 12/18/2006 9:50:22 AM , Rating: 2
This article seems a little irresponsible and the title very misleading but I guess that’s a hazard that has to be endured when you have a medium such as the internet where anyone can disseminate whatever information they wish to large masses of people.

I don’t think automotive vehicles especially one as inefficient as a hummer should ever be portrayed in a “green” manner. The fact is all automobiles pollute and in many more ways than just how much fuel they consume while driving. The manufacturing, mechanical maintenance, cleaning and disposal of automobiles all have a lasting negative impact on the environment. Even something as un-assuming as using your windshield washer fluid to clean your windshield is bad when the run off goes into ground water.

As to the main point of the article – yes cattle raising creates a huge environmental hazard but it’s no more or less important than cleaner transportation, population control and finding renewable clean fuels for the future.

Maybe someday all the data accumulated on the subject can be viewed with open eyes not influenced by money, laziness or stupidity and the real reasons for why the world is working the way it is can be discovered.

(yeah I know I am overly optimistic).





RE: A little irresponsible maybe?
By Dfere on 12/18/2006 4:26:05 PM , Rating: 1
What pollutes more- A Hummer driven at 45mph on the highway, or s litttle six cylinder sports car driven aggressively? What if one buys the Hummer and drives it for 6 years, and someone leases a new Prius every two years? What about the pollutive effects of manufacturing the car in the first place?

You simply cannot label a product, in a stand alone sense, "ungreen". An 8 cylinder motor functioning correctly creats less particulate emissions than a badly functioning six cylinder engine.

This is an emotive, ill defined argument.


RE: A little irresponsible maybe?
By THEREALJMAN73 on 12/19/2006 10:44:24 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
What pollutes more- A Hummer driven at 45mph on the highway, or s litttle six cylinder sports car driven aggressively? What if one buys the Hummer and drives it for 6 years, and someone leases a new Prius every two years? What about the pollutive effects of manufacturing the car in the first place?


If you read my post I pretty much lumped all vehicles together. No vehicle is "good" for the environment and that’s the point I was trying to make. Saying that buying a Hummer is the “green” thing to do is irresponsible.

quote:
You simply cannot label a product, in a stand alone sense, "ungreen". An 8 cylinder motor functioning correctly creats less particulate emissions than a badly functioning six cylinder engine.


I labeled a group of products as "ungreen" and they are. All cars in some form damage the environment. While maybe not on an epic level there is damage done every step of the way from manufacturing to end of life of a vehicle.

quote:
This is an emotive, ill defined argument.


Actually the only problem here is your reading comprehension. You went on a tangent that did not even remotely relate to my comments on the article. I was not comparing any vehicles. Rather I lumped them together while you tried to make an irrelevant point about a poorly tuned engineer VS a Hummer VS a Prius in pollution output. This in no way related to my comments.

Reread my comments then reread yours. Then tell me where you went wrong.


RE: A little irresponsible maybe?
By ttowntom on 12/19/2006 10:59:32 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
If you read my post I pretty much lumped all vehicles together
You singled out Hummers though for special attention. The OP rightly pointed out a Hummer, driven responsibly, can be better for the environment than many other cars.

quote:
I labeled a group of products as "ungreen" and they are. All cars in some form damage the environment
Every product made, from cheese puffs to six-string guitars "damage the environment". They all generate emissions to manufacture them. So what's your point? We should go back to living in caves?

quote:
Actually the only problem here is your reading comprehension. You went on a tangent
I think it was you went off on a tangent from the editorial itself, which was pointing out cows are a larger environmental issue than SUVs.



Bovine Flatulence
By Spyvie on 12/14/2006 12:51:41 PM , Rating: 2
All we need to do is genetically alter the livestock’s feed to include the active ingredient in Beano… problem solved.

Are there more cattle on the planet now than there were wild grazing animals 300 years ago? Do domestic cattle produce more methane head for head than a heard of buffalo?




RE: Bovine Flatulence
By Live on 12/15/2006 4:10:49 AM , Rating: 2
The thing is that free going animals contribute much less. Livestock is in many places, especially in the USA and Europe "power" feed with soybeans or similar food imported and transported from countries like Brazil. That means that the production of and transportation of the food the cow, chicken, pigs eat have consumed fossil fuels. The idea is to use cheap energy to quickly raise the animals for slaughter. This way is economical (at least with the current subsidies in US and Europe) but harmful to the environment. Meat from wild and free going animals contributes much less just because their food is not produced. But as mentioned in the report burning down forests to make land for cattle production isn’t really helpful either. So if you are going to eat meat eat wild animals like Deer and rabbits.

While I personally don’t have a problem not eating hamburgers I would find it very hard to give up Tacos and Kebab. But it is perfectly possible to produce food in a much less harmful way albeit more costly. We need to set a price on emissions so we would see local produced food be as competitive as it really is. If we combine that with taking away the subsidies who strongly favors large scale farming with high energy consumption, I will hopefully be able to continue to eat meat. Meat might be murder but its damn tasty.


Backwards thinking
By Thetech on 12/18/2006 10:29:46 PM , Rating: 2
I'm suprised there is so much backwards thinking coming from people in the comments. Is it such a crime for there to be a push for us to reduce the emissions that we add to the atmosphere? And why can't this be discussed in a civillized manner without so much ignorance, intolerance and flaming?
I had the misconception that people who read the news at sites like this would be more progressive then people who just watch the news because nothing they want to see is on, and don't really have any consideration for someone other then themselves.




RE: Backwards thinking
By Dfere on 12/19/2006 11:04:15 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think anyone here has offered that we should not be concerned. I think the main topic has been that when considering what we need to do about our future, it should be from an informed, logical and responsible decision. Asher's story line presents the argument that Hummers have a very minimal impact on climactic change.

We need to unemotionally identify the largest and strongest drivers and see if we can affect them, and indeed if we have to. From the above facts presented (if correct), it seems highly illogical to only target Hummers in attempting to "save the planet".

BTW, I do not or never have driven, or wanted to drive or own a Hummer. I consider them ostentatious, decadent, and a placebo for people who are bad drivers as well as an ego statement. They are hugely profitable knock offs of a very capable military vehicle. God love GM for deciding to sell them, else my own car ( a turbo 6 cyl sedan, would most likely be considered the "evil vehicle".

Am I more green becuase I bought the sedan, but have a lead foot?


Methane Gas in Canada?
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/16/2006 9:24:48 AM , Rating: 2
Michael,

Have you read or heard about the recent findings that an enormous amount of methane is being released from the Canadian tundra as it warms up? I saw a relatively small post about this in Science earlier this year, but I have heard virtually nothing about it since.

Kristopher




RE: Methane Gas in Canada?
By masher2 (blog) on 12/18/2006 9:05:28 AM , Rating: 1
I've been reading about methane clathrates for a while now. In the 1990s, research established methane releases from them as the cause of the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) which occurred 50-odd million years ago. They're also believed to been the cause of a much large warming in the Permian, which killed off most of the species on the planet.


off with his head
By johnsonx on 12/14/2006 5:05:39 PM , Rating: 2
Oh no, he's told the TRUTH!

The TRUTH has NO PLACE in environmental politcs.

Off with his head!




Chemistry anyone?
By pauldovi on 12/15/2006 1:45:52 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
The report also blames livestock farming for over 100 other polluting gases, including the number one source of ammonia, a major contributor to acid rain. It further blames ranching for deforestation, and ends with a slap at the massive amounts of drinking water used to feed cattle herds, which presumably is taking water from the mouths of thirsty children.


Ammonia is a weak base. How does this contribute to acid rain? I am sorry, but this statement is completely wrong.




RE: Chemistry anyone?
By masher2 (blog) on 12/15/2006 2:20:24 PM , Rating: 1
A good catch. However, the ammonia isn't being blamed for increasing the acidity of acid rain, but for increasing its effects. Ammonia present in a few parts per billion increases greatly the carrying capacity of rain for SO2, which in turn increases its adverse effects on vegetation. At least, in the opinion of the UN report.


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