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.