By Abigail-Lauren Meredith, News Editor –
Animal agriculture is a leading cause in global climate change. In fact, some
might argue that agribusiness is doing more harm to our environment than any other
human activity. Why then, is this topic not more discussed?
Possibly because the animal agricultural business is a $547 billion dollar
industry. It is not given the appropriate attention because that would mean we would
have to accept that our way of living is killing the environment and plumping our wallets.
The fact is that agricultural business affects our lives in various ways every day.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), global agriculture
(dominated by livestock and grain production) is directly responsible for 30% of
greenhouse gas emissions.
Another study done by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) discovered that 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be directly
attributed to livestock.
Livestock produce two major greenhouse gases: methane and nitrous oxide.
While carbon dioxide emissions are dangerous, they pale in comparison in to the
damage done by methane.
For those who are still having trouble believing that bovine gas (cow farts) is
killing the environment here are some facts:
* Methane gas is 21 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
* A single cow can produce up to 132 gallons of methane gas a day. This may
not sound like a lot, but there are approximately 1.5 billion cows around the world, which
means almost 150 billion gallons of methane gas is produced every day. In 2008,
scientists from California found that the US is dumping 49 million gallons of methane
gas annually into the atmosphere via livestock.
* Nitrous oxide’s global warming potential is 296 times than that of carbon dioxide
and can stay in the atmosphere for 150 years. The FAO reported in 2006 that livestock
produced 65% of all greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide.
So if we know that methane and nitrous oxide are more dangerous to the
environment than carbon dioxide and we know that a large source of methane and
nitrous oxide emissions is animal agriculture, then why has little to no change been
done to curb emissions?
The answer is simple: money. The animal agriculture businesses produces $547
billion dollars annually and any changes made might impact this amount.
The few national policies that mention animal agriculture as a contributor to
global climate change are massive failures.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Building Blocks for Climate Smart
Agriculture & Forestry” climate plan was designed to help farmers, ranchers, and
industries respond to climate change, not seek to change it. The plan does not address
greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and relies on farmers, ranchers, and
industries to voluntarily make changes. I
. The climate action plan does not list agricultural business as a major contributor
to global climate change. The plan fails to mention many impacts caused by agricultural
business, such as the fact that carbon dioxide emissions largely come from the
production of meat and dairy products.
In addition, a USDA spokesman indicated that they do not have enough research
and knowledge of practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or the impact that
such practices might have on the producer.