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Cattle Aren’t Climate Change Criminals

By   /  October 17, 2016  /  1 Comment

UC Davis’s Dr. Frank Mitloehner looked at the figures on livestock’s contribution to climate change and saw problems. Here’s what he discovered, and the good things it says about U.S. production methods.

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Here is a link to the 2006 version of the report. It provides some good information about the challenges faced by our fellow farmers and ranchers in other parts of the world.

Here is a link to the 2006 version of the report. It provides some good information about the challenges faced by our fellow farmers and ranchers in other parts of the world.

In 2006, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization put out a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” Its purpose was to look at the environmental challenges presented by livestock production, from erosion, to reduction in biodiversity, to contributing to greenhouse gases. They concluded that livestock production currently contributes “about 18 percent of the global warming effect – an even larger contribution than the transportation sector worldwide. Livestock contribute about 9 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions, but 37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide.

There were two problems with this, as Dr. Frank Mitloehner describes in this video. First, the data used to estimate greenhouse gas production by livestock included emissions from every part of the production cycle, but the same was not done for the transportation sector. When information about emissions from oil and gas production, and vehicle manufacturing, etc. were included for the transportation sector, the comparisons were more equal. Second, the figures provided are global and therefore don’t reflect the differences in livestock greenhouse gas emissions in developed vs developing nations. In some areas of the world, the impact of livestock production is much larger than in others. Mitloehner points out in this video that the U.S. livestock production system should serve as a model for reducing emissions from the livestock sector and points out why. You’ll appreciate the examples he provides in this video.

Following his challenge of “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization asked Mitloehner to serve on a steering committee to monitor livestock’s impact on the environment. This is an excellent example of scientists working together to improve the information they provide to the rest of us.

Enjoy this 6 minute video and share it with folks who may not have heard all of the story.


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  • Published: 5 years ago on October 17, 2016
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  • Last Modified: March 2, 2017 @ 12:29 pm
  • Filed Under: Consider This

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Geralyn Devereaux says:

    Commercial ranchers? Are they holistically active? He seems to imply that… The amount of milk US cows make as compared to other countries is probably not an ideal measure of a healthful process for the earth, the cows OR the consumers. Oh well, he brings out great points on the inequality of the information fed to people that seems to be an honest assessment of the meat /milk producing world but is probably based on the vegan political influences(against their own interests and animal welfare!) If they put as much energy into first restoring the land and animals to their proper earth roles and processes as they do into shaping views and cranking their political agenda they could achieve a “kinder” situation for the planet. No one HAS to eat animals but that they are a integral part of a healthy earth ecology cannot be denied if you have seen it done right. The reparative work by holistic ranchers is getting out there but from what is in the YOUTUBE comments fanatical animal rights people spend more time bashing meat-eaters than honestly assessing the new paradigm or actually helping the earth and animals.


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