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Don’t Freak Out About the IPCC Report

By   /  August 12, 2019  /  1 Comment

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The report was prepared by 107 leading scientists from 52 countries, 53% of whom were from developing countries. They assessed 7,000 papers and 28,275 comments from expert reviewers and governments.

Let’s start with this:

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that was released on August 8 does not say we should quit eating meat and become vegetarians.

Here’s what it does say:

“Balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health (high confidence*). ”

B6.2 of the Summary for Policy Makers

The scientists who worked on the report were tasked with taking a global look at how the ways we use our land contributes to climate change, and how climate change affects our land. Their primary conclusion can be summed up in one of the graphics from their presentation of the report in Geneva.

As with any health check up, there’s some bad news and some good news. The bad news, in this case, is that we have some work to do. The good news is that the report points out plenty of things we can do globally to make a difference. Here’s an example:

“Practices that contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation in cropland include increasing soil organic matter, erosion control, improved fertiliser management, improved crop management, for example, paddy rice management, and use of varieties and genetic improvements for heat and drought tolerance. For livestock, options include better grazing land management, improved manure management, higher-quality feed, and use of breeds and genetic improvement. Different farming and pastoral systems can achieve reductions in the emissions intensity of livestock products. Depending on the farming and pastoral systems and level of development, reductions in the emissions intensity of livestock products may lead to absolute reductions in GHG emissions (medium confidence*). Many livestock related options can enhance the adaptive capacity of rural communities, in particular, of smallholders and pastoralists. Significant synergies exist between adaptation and mitigation, for example through sustainable land management approaches (high confidence*). {4.8, 5.3.3, 5.5.1, 5.6}

B6.1 of the Summary for Policy Makers

I was reminded of the work we’ve done here on livestock and forage improvement when I visited a feedlot back in May. Standing side-by-side were two steers, one U.S. raised (on the right), and one from Mexico (on the left). My guide told me that they Mexican cattle are never as well muscled or bulky as their U.S. counterparts, and tend to remain a bit scrawnier throughout their time at the feed yard. (No offense to the Mexican cattle. I was also told they’re very hardy and don’t tend to get sick.)

If you’re saying to yourself, “But I’m already working on all of this!” you’re right. And that’s another part of the good news. Here in the United States we’ve created what may be the most efficient agricultural system around. In fact, a recent study shows that U.S. beef production is not a significant contributor to climate change. What’s made that possible are decades of livestock and plant genetics that help animals to gain more on less feed, and give us high quality forages that reduce methane output and contribute to faster animal growth.

But that’s not the story in all parts of the world. While we continue our own, very important work on soil health, erosion prevention, keeping the ground covered with good plants, and reducing our carbon footprint, perhaps we can also figure out ways to learn from and share what we’ve learned with our fellow farmers and ranchers in other countries. As an example of this, check out this week’s article on the work that Dr. Ray Weil and Dr. Kate Tully are doing with farmers in Ethiopia.

Finally, here’s something I do every time I read something that makes me say, “OMG!” or “People couldn’t possibly be THAT stupid!!” I head straight to the source. (Don’t go to Facebook, where people are freaking out just as much as you are. Don’t go to your favorite news channel either. Get as close as you can to the original.) In this case, I headed straight to the IPCC report site and did some quick reading. Both the press release and a quick scan of the summary were very reassuring.

I hope this helps. And I hope you’ll head over to read more of the report. I’ll also be reading more and sharing what I learn as I can.

Thanks for reading!

Kathy

* In IPCC reports, confidence is expressed qualitatively and tells us how certain we are that scientific findings are valid. The level of confidence is determined by the type, amount, quality and consistency of evidence. Here’s a breakdown of Confidence Terminology:

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  • Published: 2 months ago on August 12, 2019
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  • Last Modified: August 12, 2019 @ 4:43 pm
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

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. Liz Madison says:

    Thanks for a clear vision and setting the record straight. Bravo!

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