Its the cows, not the SUV’s

A report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow, is the latest in the climate change war. It says that cows are more of a problem than SUV’s. This isn’t surprising as there have been stories like that at NewsMine before. Anything that tries to digest plant material, especially hard to digest stuff like grass and wood, will produce methan as a byproduct. This is why termites will even outproduce cows when it comes to greenhouse gas production. But there is probably a reason why the report took after cows. James A. Merrit notes (he also provides a link to the report: “Here is the URL to the page where you can download the report: UN FAO Report – Livestock’s Long Shadow.. You can download the whole thing in one PDF file, or any of the individual chapters.”)

Actually, the point of the report is that, because we are so committed to eating cows, we indirectly cause most of the emissions by raising and feeding, processing, and transporting them and the products made from them. The implications of the report are that we need to eat fewer cows, or at least deal with the demand for beef in a more environmentally friendly fashion.

Also see the entry at the Green Diary “for the environmentalist in you.” For more on termites, see Biomass of termites and their emissions of methane and carbon dioxide or Termites as a Source of Atmospheric Methane or Sources of Atmospheric Methane.

This particular debate isn’t ‘clean’ but rather muddied by wishful thinking, theology, ideology, poor precision, and even personal psychology. This latest report is an example. Methane is only one of many greenhouse gasses. Cow flatulance is only one of many significant sources. The effects on climate change are more in the class of wild guesses than anything else. The amount of change even anticipated by the more extreme is well within the kinds of variations you see from year to year. All the talk about “cow farts” can be entertaining, especially to your middle school boy component, but a bit of skepticism is needed before taking it as a serious issue worthy of pursuit.

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