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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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RE: US based enteric fermentation percentage
By masher2 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 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.

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