Apr 17th, 2007
At times it seems overwhelming just how much we hear about global warming lately. The media is definitely focusing on it. I am not about to complain though, because we need to hear about it.
As an aside, yesterday my father and I were talking on the phone about how during the presidential elections two years ago, Global Warming was barely a blip on the radar, and other things took center stage (not getting into that). We both agreed that in the upcoming 2008 election, a candidate will not stand a chance of winning unless they have a decent plan on what they’re going to do to combat Global Warming. In my opinion,this a dramatic turnaround in politics in just two years. I digress….back to the gases.
- Did you know that according to the EPA , cattle in the U.S. emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20% of U.S. methane emissions?
- One cow can emit around 600 litres of methane a day.1
- U.S. cattle account for 19 percent of global methane emissions related to human activities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.1
- Methane has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. There just happens to be more carbon dioxide than methane. 2
These stats are only focusing on the methane that cattle from the U.S. emit from their bodies. They do not tell the whole picture. Other greenhouse gases are produced "peripherally" to the animals themselves, such as:
- Burning fossil fuel to produce mineral fertilizers used in feed production. (this is somewhere around 41 million tonnes of CO2 per year.)2
- Methane release from the breakdown of fertilizers and from animal manure. (over 18 million tonnes of CO2 per year.)2
- Land-use changes for feed production and for grazing. (somewhere around 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 per year.)2
- Fossil fuel use during feed and animal production.2
- Fossil fuel use in production and transport of processed and refrigerated animal products.2
Animals and animal production literally produce tones of greenhouse gases annually. All said, emissions from animal agriculture contribute more to global warming than all the cars and trucks on the planet. And, global warming is just one of the issues surrounding the way we raise animals. Other issues such as land erosion, water consumption, pollution, impact on biodiversity, etc., are not being considered here. For more information on these issues take a look at the United Nation’s full report. It is a bit lengthy at 400 pages, but considers most of the inputs and outputs of animal agriculture.
By going vegetarian one day a week, you can reduce greenhouse gases from animal agriculture by approximately 1/7th. It just goes to show that a modest change can have dramatic effects. It is nearly equivalent to owning a Prius, except that the benefits are realized immediately and it costs $30,000 less. However, going veg AND owning a Prius….wow!
1. Additive in Animal Feed Reduces Methane Emissions NationalAcademies.org
2. Livestocks Long Shadow, United Nations chapter 3 virtualcentre.org