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How much does animal agriculture and eating meat contribute to global warming?

What the science says...

The burning of fossil fuels for electricity and heat accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, totaling 31% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, followed by transportation at 15%, manufacturing at 12.4% and animal agriculture at 11% (World Resources Institute).

Climate Myth...

Animal agriculture and eating meat are the biggest causes of global warming

"Livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2e per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions." (source: Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang)

The three largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions are as follows:

  1. Burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat (31% of annual global human greenhouse gas emissions);
  2. Transportation (15%); and
  3. Manufacturing (12.4%).

The fourth largest contributor is animal agriculture accounting for 11% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to estimates from the World Resources Institute, as shown in Figure 1.

One myth argues that animal agriculture is the greatest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, claiming it accounts for 51% of annual global GHG emissions.

WRI GHG Emissions


Figure 1: Global manmade GHG emissions by sector reported by the World Resources Institute. Electricity and heat make the largest contribution at 31% with animal agriculture making up 11%.

While animal agriculture is a significant contributor to GHG emissions, it is not actually the biggest contributor, as the myth claims. The calculations used to get the 51% of global GHG emissions are, at times, inaccurate or inappropriate, leading ultimately to a misrepresentation of the impact of animal agriculture. This rebuttal will be split into two main parts, the first discussing the actual causes of GHG emissions and the second discussing how the non-peer reviewed report by Goodland and Anhang arrives at the 51% number.

Burning Fossil Fuels Really Accounts For The Majority Of Emissions 

All estimates of carbon emissions have uncertainty, but different credible sources agree that burning fossil fuels for heat and energy is the largest contributor to global GHG emissions. Independent reports, some of which will be discussed in the following paragraphs, use different methodologies to arrive at the contribution of global GHG emissions. These differences are largely due to things like how the variables are grouped, such as grouping land use with animal agriculture or combining manufacturing and production with industrial processes. It is important to note, however, that while there are differences in these figures and numbers, the reports consistently conclude that burning fossil fuels for energy and heat is the largest contributor.

The World Resources Institute is a global research nonprofit that studies environmental sustainability, economic opportunity, and human well-being. The World Resources Institutes Climate Analysis Indicators Tool, a tool designed to analyze GHG emissions by sector and country, concludes that the energy sector accounts for the majority of emissions, around 72%. Within that 72%, are electricity and heat, transportation, and manufacturing which account for 31%, 15%, and 12.4% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. Animal agriculture accounts for 11% of the GHG emissions (World Resources Institute). Figure 1 shows a 2013 compilation of these estimates put together using data from the World Resources Institute, showing that the energy sector accounts for the majority of these emissions.  

This is not the only estimate of various sectors impact on global emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a body of the United Nations focused on studying and understanding human induced climate changeThe United States Environmental Protection Agency reports global emissions in the same way that is reported by the IPCC, shown in Figure 2. By these estimates, electricity and heat production account for 25% of global emissions, agriculture, forestry, and land use make up 24%, industry 21%, and transportation 14%. These estimates are different from those noted before, but the reason for the difference is important.

Figure 2: Global manmade GHG emissions by sector reported by the IPCC, electricity and heat production make the largest contribution at 25% followed by animal agriculture, forestry, and other land use making up 24% (IPCC).

Figure 2: Global manmade GHG emissions by sector reported by the IPCC, electricity and heat production make the largest contribution at 25% followed by animal agriculture, forestry, and other land use making up 24% (IPCC).

For the World Resources Institute and IPCC, the sources for their information and how the numbers are derived are publicly available, compiling reported data from across the globe. As mentioned before, the reason for the differences are largely in grouping. The following section will discuss how the 51% myth bases its numbers on exaggerations and uses completely different methodologies from both of these groups in deriving its numbers.

The 51% Figure Is Based On Poor Assumptions and Exaggeration

As mentioned above, the 51% claim comes from a non peer reviewed paper, containing a series of flaws and fallacies used in arriving at their number. A peer reviewed critique of the paper highlights many of the flaws that consistently exaggerate the effects of animal agriculture. One example is how the paper handles livestock respiration. When animals and humans breathe, CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere and taken in by plants, then converted to oxygen. We breathe and eat the plants and the cycle continues, so when we breathe out, we are returning CO2 that was already there. This is why human and animal respiration are excluded from carbon dioxide emission assessments, as the carbon cycle is accepted to be net zero over the span of years to decades.

Figure 3 helps illustrate the carbon cycle. If this paper chose to take a stance that animal respiration is not net zero, it is possible to account for animal respiration in the emission budget. However, it is also important to calculate the absorption and consumption of CO2 as well to quantify the imbalance due to respiration, which is not done. On top of that, and more pertinent to the matter, if the authors of the paper think that the carbon cycle is not net zero, it would also be necessary to include human respiration in the calculations to adequately assess the appropriate contribution of human CO2 emissions. They assume that the emissions of over 7.5 billion humans alive today are net zero, and livestock emissions are not, which is cherry picking. As is, the paper oversimplifies the issues, leading to a misrepresentation of animal agriculture's contribution to global GHG emissions. Accounting for these issues would cause a major change to the 51% value in the report, as over 26% of the reported emissions by animal agriculture come from animal respiration.

Figure 3: A simple diagram of the carbon cycle showing how humans and animals emit CO2 that is then used by plants to make oxygen, which are then eaten (modified from a chart made by Patrick Brown).

Figure 3: A simple diagram of the carbon cycle showing how humans and animals emit CO2 that is then used by plants to make oxygen, which are then eaten (modified from a chart made by Patrick Brown).

Oversights of this sort occur throughout the paper. Another example is CO2 emissions from land and land use, which contributes to 8.2% of animal agriculture emissions. In the paper the myth partially arises from, an extra source of CO2 emissions is added to animal agriculture's contribution using a hypothetical ‘what-if scenario’. The paper postulates that if land for animal agriculture were converted to activities such as growing crops for humans or biofuel, there could be emissions savings. These potential savings were then added to the other sources of animal agriculture emissions and treated as a way that animal agriculture contributes to total GHG emissions.

This hypothetical approach is inconsistent with the way that the World Resources Institute and IPCC report global GHG emissions. It is a problematic approach because it then uses the total worldwide emissions that both of these sources report to derive its 51% as opposed to driving and reporting a different, larger, total worldwide GHG emissions total, as would be necessary. Other sources, like fossil fuel burning, are not scrutinized to the point of considering what emissions would be if they were also changed to meet these ‘what-if scenarios’, which would ultimately lead to a vastly different worldwide emission totals (Herrero et al 2011). That is not to discredit ‘what-if’ thought experiments - they can be helpful in outlining potential future changes. But in a study on actual current emissions, it is inconsistent and inappropriate to include them as emissions. Altogether, these errors consistently overestimate the impact of animal agriculture.

Everyone Can Help The Environment In Their Own Way

There is a lot of discussion on how animal agriculture impacts various countries differently. It is possible to cherry pick examples from countries and argue that animal agricultural emissions are far more (or less) impactful on emissions than global numbers show. However, just because there are some countries that show different contributions from animal agriculture than are shown in a look at the globe as a whole, it does not mean that animal agriculture is misrepresented globally.

Similarly, one oversimplifying argument is that even if animal agriculture is not the main cause of global emissions, going vegan is the easiest thing one as an individual can do to lower their impact on global emissions. This is a difficult argument to support or disprove, as the benefit and ease of going vegan comes down to personal choices as well as the region one lives in. Everyone lives a different life and a person’s health, their living situation, and personal choices all play a role in the impact that they can make in reducing GHG emissions. There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution as to what can be done. The best way that you can lower your impact on global emissions is to be cognizant of your actions and actively work to minimize activities that create emissions whenever possible. For anyone interested, a list of some ways you can modify your lifestyle is included here. While animal agriculture does not contribute most of the CO2 emissions, it is still a significant contributor. Nevertheless, creating misleading or erroneous statistics to push a false narrative is counterproductive and only serves to hurt the causes that one is seeking to advocate for.

Last updated on 13 November 2020 by ZackChester. View Archives

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Comments 26 to 50 out of 54:

  1. Since there is a very much new analysis of the impact of meat eating and dietary choices on global warming perhpas you should update this section: see Lancet  Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems

  2. @26 Barbara,

     It's easy to see that the Lancet links you posted contains papers that show a completely naive and unrealistic understanding of agriculture and the primary food systems of the planet.

    It's full of doctors trying to explain to farmers why their food is unhealthy and it is pretty ridiculous actually.

    Just for an example[1]:

    Seek international and national commitment to shift towards healthy diets. The scientific targets set by this Commission provide guidance for the necessary shift, which consists of increasing consumption of plant-based foods and substantially reducing consumption of animal source foods. Research has shown that this shift will reduce environmental effects and improve health outcomes. This concerted commitment can be achieved by investment in public health information and sustainability education, and improved coordination between departments of health and environment.
    Re-orient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food. Production should focus on a diverse range of nutritious foods from biodiversity-enhancing food production systems rather than increased volume of a few crops, most of which are used for animal production."


    So here they are with the very laudable goal of improving agriculture, but then emediately hamstringing any effort to restore agricultural land by requiring a reduction of animal agriculture. You can't accomplish goal 2 by following goal 1. It sabotages any attempt to actually improve agriculture to sustainable systems. 

    Agriculture became unhealthy and unsustainable when the animals were removed from the farm and started being raised in CAFOs and feedlots instead. The land degrades because animal impact is replaced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Reducing animals even more is not the solution. The solution is returning the animals to the land where they belong.

    (3) ...This change would entail reducing yield gaps on cropland, radical improvements in the efficiency of fertiliser and water use, recycling phosphorus, redistributing global use of nitrogen and phosphorus, implementing climate mitigation options, including changes in crop and feed management, and enhancing biodiversity within agricultural systems.

    As you can see this fundamental lack of understanding continues in 3 as well. All of the goals presented being far more efficiently attained by animals rather than inorganic chemicals. Which also results in both yield increases and quality increases.

    4 has parts equally as bad.

    management policies aimed at restoring and re-foresting degraded land

    Ignoring the fact that animals are critical in restoring land. This failure to understand biological systems and the requirement for animal impact to restore degraded land is why we have such disasters like the California and Oregon forest fires. It's poor management designed by people who have no idea what they are talking about, and yet they want "strong governmental control"...exactly what caused such disasters to begin with.

    I could go on an on, but to summarize:

    We can all agree the current system is set up for failure and an important part of the causes of AGW. However, the solutions presented are not a solution at all. In some ways making it even worse.

  3. Skeptical Science, you mentioned “... less in developed countries (e.g. 3% in the USA)”. But how much of the meat consumed in developed countries comes from undeveloped countri?

  4. Depended a bit on your definition of "underdeveloped" for both exporters and importers.

    Export trade accounts for about 10% of meat production. Across all meats, exports (mt) 2017 are: (Source)

    World 32711
    United States 7718
    Brazil 7023
    EU 4983
    Australia 1905
    Canada 1897
    India 1736
    Thailand 1113
    New Zealand 991
    China 590
    Argentina 554

    and top Importers are:

    China 5423
    Japan 3635
    United States 2195
    Mexico 2167
    Viet Nam 1667
    Korea Rep of 1317
    Russian Fed. 1290
    EU 1286
    Saudi Arabia 976
    Canada 762

  5. Another thing that's important to note is the short life of methane in the atmosphere which tends to be misrepresented when GWP100 is used to represent its effects. If cattle herd sizes remain the same over the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere, they will maintain the same amount of additional methane in the atmosphere year on year (the amount of cattle in Europe and North America is lower than it was in the 1960's whilst India has fewer cattle than it did in the 1980s). In terms of their contribution to warming, this, in a very simplistic sense, is equivalent to a closed power station.

  6. AsI am a little confused as to how animal agriculture is responsible for 13–18% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally, and only 3% in the USA, when later you say “the livestock sector is responsible for about 37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions (mainly from manure), globally. It sure seems like the greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than 13-18% with the latter figures.
    In the comments many people claimed regenerative agriculture would work, but I see in a later post about Savory’s unsupported idea about regenerative agriculture, you address why it would not be beneficial. It’s easy to see that smaller, grass fed cows who take longer to grow and fatten means it will take more cows to feed the same number of people, and yes, more methane into the air, and more land used, more water poisoned.
    What I do not understand is why intelligent climate scientists are not urging others to go vegan. This idea of “reducing” meat consumption means that people will maybe switch out one beef meal to a chicken or fish meal. With our oceans losing fish, our chickens, pigs and cows using antibiotics, the animal agriculture requiring more land, more Amazon deforestation, more waste in oceans, etc., environmentalists should not ignore that there are serious environmental problems from animal agriculture. Look at the environmental marches – you see kids eating hamburgers, ice cream and hot dogs while holding their “reduce paper” signs (made of paper). You see large environmental leaders suggesting we “reduce meat a little.” Why say that, when getting rid of meat and dairy altogether would make a much more livable planet?  (Comments that usually follow are angry people saying they won't give up meat because it is their choice.)
    People protect their cut up animal parts, even after watching the horrid abuse on CATO farms AND “humane” farms and unimaginable treatment in slaughterhouses or from homemade slaughtering. People start pretending they eat all their meals from a farm that looks like a farm sanctuary, and where the animals are killed in an instant. That is a fantasy.
    Next farmers will transition to “grass fed” farms and then we will break it to them that it is not sustainable, and they will have to transition again to a sustainable non-animal farm. This takes valuable time and money.  We don't have this kind of time!  Ideas like "regenerative agriculture" are making us stall in what we must do. 

  7. BarbNoon1 , you already know the answer to your question.

    And whether the "food from animals" industry is responsible for 20% or 10% of GHG emissions, is largely irrelevant to your point.

    The highest priority for the world, is to bring global warming to a halt.  For the sake of all  animals as well as us humans.   And you know that swinging the appropriately-large  proportion of citizens to veganism (or near-veganism) would take many generations.

    The scientists are having such slow success battling against the "Pro-CO2" lobby . . . and yet you want them to open a second battle-front in this hard-fought war?   History teaches you it would be a most unwise move.

    Rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly ~ any major push by scientists to promote veganism in connection with AGW, would result in the severe undermining of the core climate message.   The Pro-CO2 lobby/propagandists would see to it, with glee.

    BarbNoon1 , you know that.

    And when you have simmered down, I suspect you will realize that the best & fastest way to achieve your own aim, is to use a subtle & indirect approach.  Low profile.  The long game.  (Not so emotionally satisfying for you . . . but it is the practical optimum method.)

  8. Eclectic, I disagree that I must "simmer down," "be subtle and indirect," and keep a "low profile."  But thanks for trying to give me what you think is good advice.  
    I am upset about climate change and you should be too, but perhaps you think I am upset simply because of animals, and we certainly know there is no justification for that!  
    However, let's not quibble anymore.  I expected a "Skeptical Science" administrator to answer my first statement, but I made an error above and do not need it answered.  I thought the "37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions” above was about the United States, so it seemed way too large for just 3% US GHG emissions in the U.S. However, it says, plain as day, that the figure was “globally” and not “U.S.” I was pretty fatigued last night, but sometimes my brain just refuses to see what I am starting at.
    No, I did not know the answer, Eclectic. Since you said that twice, I will answer it twice.  I did not know the answer. 
    I also do not agree with your answer to only talk about fossil fuels.  I agree to talk about fossil fuels, but not JUST about fossil fuels.  If a man has a heart attack and a slow-growing cancer, the doctor does not tell the man to take medicine for his heart attack, but not tell him to take medicine for his cancer just because the doctor surmises another heart attack will kill him before the cancer. He treats both of them, he gives the truth, he explains the risks and he hopes the patient will comply with his recommendations.
    I can do all the cutting down of leaving lights on, keeping the thermostat down, and writing my representatives about doing something about climate change, but I cannot afford a new car, much less an electric or hybrid one.  But I can eat no meat and dairy with every meal and every snack.
    It is easy once you become determined. With all the damage that animal agriculture is doing (review the original post above as well as my post) I will repeat the statement that environmentalists should be vegan, should be talking about veganism, and should do a positive post on that subject to point out all the ways it can help, without it sandwiched between trying to diminish it, and most of the readers thinking it means it is not important enough to deal with.  I am sure they think their readers will do some heavy thinking about their articles, but it doesn't always reflect that way in the comments section.  
    No, it will not take several generations for a good share of the world to go vegan. The UK is far ahead of the U.S., so if you are in the U.S., you may not be aware of the daily food additions and the number of people trying veganism in other parts of the world.  We vegans have a lot of plans (but we remain low key, subtle, and we have a long plan).  
    I do not see the need for baby steps – most people reading this are adults – take adult steps.
    I appreciate the article above, but Cowspiracy has always stated what exact comparison they were making with the animal agriculture to transportation, and they have not changed that post. Skeptical Science has clarified it, stating 3% is U.S., but also stating that 9% of deforestation is from animal agriculture, and many other damages, that show we should be talking about answers to the fossil fuel issue AS WELL AS answers to the issues caused by animal agriculture.

  9. [Apologies for my long post.  Skippable, because not overflowing with pearls of wisdom.]

    BarbNoon1 , thank you for your reply.  And I do appreciate your points of the ethical and environmental aspects of veganism, and I wish you well (though I don't "get" the full Vegans' opposition to the ovo-lactarian diet, especially regarding children).

    I hope you do keep a low profile.  For analogies, there's the old saying:  "Too many cooks spoil the broth".   Admittedly it's a rather poor analogy . . . but I am sure you'll understand the relevant aspect of the analogy.   Your own medical analogy can be somewhat deficient ~ while true in some cases, yet there are other cases where patients react poorly when hit with several bits of bad news at once.  Where they deal with things best if information is presented to them over time, and in a sequential prioritized manner.

    At the heart of what I was saying, is that the climate scientists should speak up about the need for (gradual) cessation of fossil fuels.  That is the highest priority.

    They should not (at least for several decades) even mention veganism.  In the same way, Vegans should mention ethical aspects and should not mention global warming.  Each group should stay in their own Public Relations sphere.

    As I said, it would be counterproductive to combine the messages ~ because the blowback from the Pro-CO2 lobby/propagandists would be huge.

    The same propagandists would ramp up the (not-new) idea that veganism is (to Americans) a "Left Wing" lifestyle . . . leading down the slippery slope to Ungodly Socialism (=Communism) and to the overthrow of Sacred Free Market Capitalism & the Constitution, and to the loss of Liberties, and to the installation of Tyranny, and to (most heinous sin of all) the Increase of Taxes.   Gasp.

    Well, enough humor ~ but BarbNoon1 , you know that's sort of how it would be stated and/or implied, as they welded AGW and veganism into a single political threat.


    Yet,  Vegans of the world ~ time is on your side.  A high percentage of the world population is now urban-living, with food coming increasingly in packaged supermarket form, without any of the dirt-under-the-fingernails  aspects involved in killing & preparing.   While most people are omnivorous and like cooked meat, there is an increasing squeamishness present, which the Vegan lobby can work on.   Nor should meat-lovers despair, for the food scientists are gaining expertise in giving plant protein a "meaty" flavor & texture.   And on the horizon, is vat-grown muscle-like cell culture (though possibly that approach may be short-circuited by super-hi-tech GM soy, etc.)

    All that I ask is that Vegans keep off the AGW bandwagon, and (changing analogies) that they not try to push two barrows at the same time.  Because they would almost certainly (and unintentionally) sabotage the climate-change barrow.

    And there's a danger it could facilitate the Pro-CO2 lobby in creating "False Flag" veganistic operations, as part of its propaganda efforts.  (Even the true Vegans would eventually lose out over that.)   There's already enough of trolling & False Flagging in action by the anti-science propagandists.

  10. Alan, CH4 converts to CO2 ....

  11. Unless you make eating meat illegal there's no way it can make a significant impact because it's consumption is inelastic. Put up the price and people will just eat less vegetables and smoke a few less cigarettes!! They might even refuse to work efficiently and give the ever expanding Governments who think own them less taxes to feed on? 

    Basically, I can't see it being the first port-of-call. 

    Population Growth is the elephant in the room and mass immigration is just a confounding factor of that. Sure, it can be argued as you import those who didn't eat much meat to the first world where they will inevitably become bigger consumers of meat then emissions will increase but that aint the fault of the consuming voter of the host country who never invited them in the first place.

    It surely does contribute a lot, but to say Population Growth and Mass Immigration don't push it is a corruption of thought.

  12. You mention children and eggs and milk, and I will not teach you about health in detail here, except to say that all American children who follow the Standard American Diet by age 10 have striations of fat on their hearts - yes, the start of heart disease.  Milk has hormones, and Casein and IGF-1 growth hormones can CAUSE cancer, and even spread it.  Eggs are high in cholesterol and have too much choline which can lead to heart disease.  I spend hours researching and teaching health. 
    Now, why in the world would I just talk about ethics, when veganism causes such damage to the environment.  Sprayed ammonia from farms can travel up to 300 miles and land in water where they cause algal blooms and fish kills.  It's pretty hard to get away from the pollution when a 200 milking cows produces the same amount of urine and feces as 8,400 people. 

    You tell me to leave the global warming subject alone, yet, in climate change marches, subjects like light bulbs, turning off water and recycling are seen.  I thought you just wanted to see fossil fuel marchers!  I understand what you are trying to say, and I will think more on it, but when it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, it should be talked about as an important amount of climate change! 
    Yes, I agree with Bozzza that so many of our problems come with over-population.  Are you going to tell Bozzza to keep a low profile and not let population control enter the climate change conversation?  All of it should be in the conversation.  We definitely need worldwide readily available birth control for women and equal rights! 
    All these subjects are interconnected.  Don't worry, I won't be holding a "Go Vegan" sign at climate change protests.  I work in a different way.

    I do need to learn more about what we can do about fossil fuels, but it always seems like it is up to a very stubborn government that ends up doing nothing.  I do talk about CO2 when writing representatives and when explaining the "driver" of climate change to other people. 
    I don't even see a problem.  I just think you are one of the delayers when it comes to cleaning up this environment by eating a truly sustainable diet.  



    [PS] Excess white space removed. Please remember to support assertions (many of them in first paragraph) with references. Otherwise comments may be deleted for sloganeering.

  13. Okay.  You may have to copy and paste these into your browser
    1.  "Too much choline . . . ."
    2.  "Heart disease in children by age 10.  If you don't want to watch the video, there is a transcript at lower left.
    3.  Dairy causes cancer.  This video is heavily sourced with peer reviewed articles all the way through.

    I am satisfied with the discussion we've had.

  14. One more.  As far as "grass fed" and "sustainable," this article does the math and determines that grass fed and grazing are not sustainable.

  15. BarbNoon1 @37 & following:

    While I agree with much of what you say, nevertheless there are many disputable points.

    All American children on standard diet have "striations of fat on their hearts"  by around age 10 ?   Did you mean so-called "fatty streaks" on the interior of their coronary arteries (which would apply to those with a genetic proclivity) . . . or mean merely fatty deposits on the exterior of the heart [as on the bowel ~ a matter largely caused by obesity] . . .  obesity being known as a promoter of heart disease.

    "Milk has hormones, and casein [... etcetera]" . . . but this is starting to sound like a Gish Gallop.   And you are drawing a very long bow indeed.  I did watch your "Dairy Causes Cancer"  video.  Sorry Barb, but it's very poor science, and also ignores the Big Picture.  The cited papers on medical studies ~ show the typical weaknesses of studies of humans, as (a) being poorly-controlled, and (b) making little allowance for the vast number of confounding factors present in complex biological systems.   All a ripe field for cherry-picking, too !

    "Eggs high in cholesterol" . . . yes, that was thought important in the 1960's . . . but scientific understanding has improved since then.   Which you ought  to know.   Please note that my main concern with rejection of ovo-lactarian diet, was in the area of child nutrition.   A vegan diet can be fully nutritious, but you have to be very scientific in following it.  Doubtless you've seen those occasional reports of developmentally-impaired children, whose ignorant parents simply gave the children what they themselves ate, without any allowance for vitB12 & sufficient essential amino acids etcetera.   And then we should mention children in "Third World" nations.

    "Sprayed ammonia" really should be unnecessary in modern scientific organically-based farming.   Nor is it justified to eliminate all  cattle livestock ~ since they can graze on semi-forest and marginal land too poor for most crops.   And you will find on SkS here, some commenters ( IIRC: "RedBaron" ) who indicate that free-range grass-fed cattle can be beneficial by increasing carbon storage in the soil.  Carbon negative!   Sure, overall the cattle (and other livestock) should have their numbers greatly reduced, but not necessarily to zero !

    Bozzza says all sorts of things, and often in a spray of one-liners.  Sometimes he's right, sometimes he's "not so much"  ~ it's as though he doesn't always care to make sense.   But sure, overpopulation is a major problem, which is going to take centuries to correct anyway.   AGW is too urgent a problem for "population reduction" to even be on the same page (and "population reduction" is even more a taboo subject, for most people).   At the end of the day, it's the fossil fuels.

    Barb, let's not get deep into subjects which are Off-topic for this thread.

    The essential point I raised initially, is that the climate scientists should not be pushing veganism.  Not this century, anyway !

  16. Yes, I really want to get out of this conversation, and we are off-topic, but I can't believe you don't know that cholesterol is bad for you!   
    When study results, funded by the dairy industry came out in 2010, Dr. Jeremiah Stamler immediately criticized them, followed by other prominant doctors such as Dr. John McDougall.  Of course, Time Magazine writers did not know that, and they put "Butter is Back" on the cover.  However, the science has not changed. Marketing is just more skillful.  The huge industries repeated the same studies in 2014 in order to look like they had more "evidence," but the truth is, cholesterol still can cause heart disease.

    We have to be "very scientific" about following a vegan diet? Really?  I have many friends who have been vegan for over 40 years (I guess I have to show my sources, Hope Bohanic, Kim Stallwood, Fiona Oakes and Butterflies Katz are a few.)  Fiona Oakes runs and holds about 7 world records in ultra marathons and eats once a day, at the end of the day after training and then taking care of an entire animal sanctuary - she is 50 and has been vegan since about age 4.  Source?  Running for Good documentary. 

    39% of Americans are deficient in B12.  You'd better be careful about that deficiency!  We can get B12 from plants - there is new evidence that duckweed has tons of B12 and there are four plants found so far that have B12.  The few vegan parents who had children who died starved them!  Just being vegan was not the problem.
    If you want the article for Dr. Jeremiah Stamler it is called, "Diet-Heart.  A problematic revisit."  However, I can no long access it - scientific document.

    Back to topic:  
    Population, what we eat, and how we live are all intertwined in the climate change problem.  If you want a march specifically for fossil fuels, do so.  But most people don't even know the solutions to bring fossil fuels under control, and most people cannot do anything about it themselves, except hold signs in marches or write their representatives.  
    Your opinion differs from mine on what is important.  Eclectic, you made your points and I made mine.  I will not return.  Please try to refrain from "Mansplaining," telling women to be low key, subtle, and repeatedly saying things like, "You really SHOULD know this!"  Obviously, there are things you do not know about as well.  

  17. Forgot this source:
    I take cherry-flavored B12.

  18. Thanks, BarbNoon1 . . . yes, we are getting well off-topic, and should close our conversation.  Though it has had topical relevance, in that it's emphasized the importance of "climatism" and "veganism" keeping out of each other's way.

    And it has given me some worthwhile mental exercise . . . as well as some amusement ~ e.g. your "mansplaining"  comment.   Surely, Barb, you aren't as very non-PC as to presume  you know my gender?!   And in my "low key, subtle" suggestion, was there any allusion by me to women rather than to vegans generally?   Hummmph !

    You stating "I will not return"  ~ is often a poor move.  You may very well not comment further . . . but everyone knows you are very likely to return to see if I have replied.  Which gives me the last word.  As now :-

    Cholesterol in the diet is unimportant compared with the cholesterol innately produced by the liver ~ and you ought  to know that.  All that business of liver enzymes / genetics / high-density & low-density lipoproteins, etcetera.   Let's call it "personplaining" !

    The absorption of B12 is rather more complex than you seem to think : not merely a matter of "how many micrograms went into my mouth today."   Young children need very careful attention to nutritional requirements to avoid developmental damage as they grow on a vegan diet ~ sadly, some parents think it's just a matter of a shovel plus "X" number of calories / total protein.   If the parents are klutzes, then it's safer to go ovo-lactarian for the children.   Which the prudent parent will do anyway (keeping human evolution in mind ~ and keeping in mind we probably still  don't know everything we ought to, about human nutrition and gut biome).   And the children like it.

    And I refer you back to the general criticism I made of medical research.  Anecdotes are even worse !

  19. Barbnoon1 @39. Coming from a farming family, of course grass fed cattle are sustainable. As long as the paddock is not overstocked the cattle can feed on the grass forever whilst fertilising the paddock.

    if what you really meant is relative productivity per unit area of land compared to other forms of meat production, then that is a different issue. 

    However comparisons of beef to pork and chicken is not a like for like comparison due to vastly different animal husbandry standards. Most chicken is produced in tiny cages, whereas most beef is to use the chicken term "free range" in a paddock. A relevant comparison is free range chicken to beef.

  20. Scaddenp @2 I totally agree. The number of people I know who boldly and loudly advertise their green credentials and then frivolously get on a plane for a holiday, astounds me. Worse still, some go business class which is nearly 3 times the emissions (eg 737 Max 9 has 220 seats for all economy and 43 economy seats are removed to create 16 business class seats for a 2 class service. Refer 737 Max specs)

  21. I made the decision take the heat for returning when I said I was done, because facts matter to me, and “winning” in a discussion is not why I wrote in the comments section in the first place. I was not happy with the continuous “regenerative farming” fallacies that are here in the comments, so I am copying some of my source’s article (that I posted earlier and below).

    “On the smallest scale, one cow requires a minimum of 2 acres of pasture land and 20–30 gallons of water daily. That is, assuming the two acres are fully covered with good grazing land (in some places, cows require more acreage because the pasture isn’t filled out with healthy grass for grazing). Additionally, in the winter months, grain will often have to be purchased. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume optimal efficiency, or 2 acres per cow, assuming no change in the total number of cattle and swine currently consumed in the United States, we would need more than 2.5 billion acres of land. The problem, as it happens, is that there are fewer than 2.3 billion acres in the entire United States, including all the mountains, swamps, deserts, and otherwise unsuitable land areas you can imagine. Alaska alone accounts for 17% percent of the United States’ total acreage. And remember, that 2.5 billion required acreage is only for cattle and swine. Would you like to include the 250 million grass raised turkeys, 7 million sheep, and 8 billion chickens currently consumed each year?

    On the farm neighboring me [author], here in the Dominican Republic, there are 82 head of cattle on 200 acres. The farmer has told me that these 200 acres have reached maximum capacity. That’s about 2.44 acres per cow. It takes two years for a grass-fed cow to reach full maturity, at which point it can be slaughtered for about 450 pounds of flesh. That means my neighbor can expect to produce approximately 36,900 pounds of meat, every two years (82 x 450 = 36,900). He projects that we will have at least 100,000 pounds of organic produce, from our two acres of land, after two years. On two acres of land, over a two year period, one can produce 450 pounds of animal flesh or 100,000 pounds of plant produce, using almost no water, compared to the 20–30 gallons required for each cow, every day.

    Can something be sustainable when it isn’t even feasible?

    Eclectic, you are skilled at debating and at casting doubt on evidence. When I said you “mansplained,” I was aware you might not be male, but in my fatigue, it was the only word to describe how you treat sincere people.
    I originally said I felt environmentalists should be vegan. I stand by my opinion, and all of you concerned only with CO2 can still be vegan and just talk about CO2. When animal agriculture poisons our waterways, land and air and is not an efficient way to feed the world. It’s not time for a “distribution” excuse - meat is terribly inefficient, and as many as 25,000 people lose their lives every day due to hunger; we need a better system and only veganism will feed the world and allow us to re-wild many areas.

    You claimed that the fertilizer spray of pig waste would be taken care of with regenerative farming, but pig waste (and all animal waste) on the ground also causes environmental issues.

    Here is a video and transcript about heart disease in children. This talks about fatty streaks in arteries. This next video talks about how heart disease may start in the womb. They looked at the arteries of fetuses from mothers with normal cholesterol levels and from pregnant moms with high cholesterol, and fetal arteries from mothers with high cholesterol contained dramatically greater lesions.

    Last, this article, from the BMJ, tells the harm of dietary cholesterol. 395 ward feeding studies. This is “not too new” or “too small.” And I did post the Framington Study earlier which was large. This study shows that whether you are genetically inclined to have low cholesterol or high cholesterol, the cholesterol you avoid in your diet is important for your health.

    I am sure you will find everything unworthy. However, I showed why every environmentalist should be vegan (unless you live with no access to grocery stores, or are some rare exception), because eating vegan is the healthy diet that helps the environment the most and I definitely showed why “grass fed, grazing or regenerative farming will not work to feed the population and will still greatly pollute.


    [DB] In the absence of confounding factors like associated fat intake, there's no clear relationship solely between dietary cholesterol intake and cardiovascular risk:

    "Evidence from observational studies conducted in several countries generally does not indicate a significant association with cardiovascular disease risk"

    Even interventional studies, while showing mild improvements in some markers, showed no significant outcomes benefit:

    "the findings were not significant for the stronger predictor of CVD risk, LDL cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol concentration"

    Should people make healthier eating choices?  Yes. 

    In the scheme of things, is that action bigger than switching global energy usage from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources?  Not even close.  

    Let's keep this closer to the topic of this post, please.

  22. Barb @46 , please don't feel any heat (metaphorically speaking).  You are most welcome to post.

    My principal objection to your initial comments was that you urged climate scientists to expand their advocacy into the simultaneous advocacy of veganism.   IMO, such action by them (or by anyone  linking climate matters and veganism) would be wrong because counterproductive (to the point of self-sabotage) in the urgent tackling of AGW.

    Your economic arguments are good ~ their main weakness being because based on the assumption that the current methods of "meat production" would continue at present levels (or higher, worldwide).   For all sorts of reasons - some touched on, earlier - it is likely that "farm meat" consumption per capita will decline in the latter half of this century.  But it need not go down to zero, to be ecologically sound.

    Your health/medical arguments are weak in their science ~ but they are a "Motivated Reasoning" consequence of your veganism . . . and there would be little point in me firing torpedoes at them.   Plus, it would be off-topic.

    I shall submerge to 20 fathoms, and switch to electric motors.

  23. I have no difficulty in understanding the critiques of many quacky practices, but the question of what to eat, including the morality of one's diet, is much more difficult as there are many conflicting arguments.  Even science based organizations like the American Dietetic Association, will tout the benefits of vegetarianism, as long as the eater does not neglect B12 and the 9 essential amino acids.  Environmental writer George Monbiot of the UK paper The Guardian ( says that becoming a vegan will save the planet.  Reading your statistics above leads to more questions than answers - for example, while stating that animal husbandry only contributes 9% of carbon dioxide, you then go on to state that the greenhouse effect is 20 times stronger for methane than for carbon dioxide.  20 times seems a rather large number, one of such magnitude that it would be difficult to argue that the 1.5 billion cows raised only for meat are not competing rather heftily with the 60% of carbon dioxide caused by the belching of cars, trucks and factories.  Monbiot also states that food companies are now using bacteria to generate believable steaks, sausages and fish.  I can believe that, given how realistic the plant-based burgers are becoming.  While I haven't yet found a plant-based milk that enhances my tea, the plant-based chives cream cheese I just bought is absolutely delish!   There are always problems I have found with people's arguments - the mere fact of making an argument means it is not going to be: "the benefits of this are... and the costs of this are...." - especially when it comes to a problem as severe as climate change.  I also privately (as I never feel sufficiently armed with data to make almost any argument convincing) wonder if the liberal opposition to nuclear power is not also contributing to climate change.  I am a liberal myself but I also know from psychology that liberals and conservatives each have their own biases.  While I am very aware of how the Trump administration is dismantling all environmental laws, would the considerable influence of anti-nuclear energy among liberals which has for real hindered its research and development in Germany, UK, and the States during the Clinton Administration, not mean that liberals also contributed a great deal to existing climate change at a time (25 years ago) when we could have easily slid from non-renewables to nuclear (and the nuclear being developed at the time was nothing like Chernobyl reactor, it was the Integral Fast Reactor - one of the best books on that is from one of the scientists decommissioned by the Clinton administration (  I know that has nothing to do with diet, but I make this point as with so many people making arguments for and against important positions like vegetarianism/veganism, we must each take our stands in the direction we believe the data support.   I think for many vegetarians, giving up meat, as long as they are not excessively narcissistic and self-righteous about it, is a private decision made against the excessively consumerist culture, like replacing our cars with bicycles, practicing minimalism with our possessions, or even using one's typewriter when powering up the PC is unnecessary.

  24. Thanks for admitting me to the forum and for this interesting discussion. When we are talking about climate change it seems to me that we need to be thinking about 'carbon in the biosphere' as being the primary issue rather than 'carbon in the atmosphere' (which is a consequence of the former)! Something that has really puzzled me for some time is the (I think) indisputable fact that these two classes of carbon are frequently not differentiated when we discuss food footprints. I understand that in Australia virtually all beef production is 'rangeland' meaning the animals rely almost entirely on natural pasturage and waters. Granted, the sheer (and increasing) quantum of animal production - with concommitant transport and other f/f inputs - is a major issue - but it does seem to me that the GGEs supposedly associated with animal production remain quite misunderstood. What exactly is the long-term GG issue associated with ruminant husbandry is the CO2 and methane being produced is based on carbon that is already in the biosphere? Doesn't this husbandry and consequent consumption just move the carbo atoms around in the biosphere? Isn't it the introduction of long-sequestered carbon into the biosphere via use of fossil fuels what we should really be focussed on? 

  25. @Savvas,

    Exactly correct but it goes deeper than that. 

    There is a logic flaw every time we suppose that any type of food is "harmful" to the environment or causes AGW. 

    Food does not cause AGW...EVER.

    Agriculture can contribute to AGW if the methods used have impact, but this is a result of methods used. Agriculture is equally capable of mitigating AGW as contributing to AGW. In this regards it is even more important than fossil fuels vs renewable energy.

    Renewable energy is hugely beneficial of course, but there is no renewable energy that is a net negative. (although theorectically there are potentially ways to manage it, none exist now at our current technology)

    Agriculture on the other hand varies from a large net emissions source to a large net emissions sink depending on the methods used. It absolutely can be done at a net negative, unlike renewable energy which simply tapers down to zero.

    Focusing on the food itself, rather than the production methods for that food is a critically flawed strategy the simply obfuscates and confuses, rather than actually helping to make the changes needed to mitigate AGW.

    Bottom line is that yes, factory farmed animal husbandry is a net source for emissions, but properly managed animal husbandry is quite capable of easily being a net sink. Eating less meat when it is being raised as a net sink actually INCREASES your carbon footprint, rather than decreasing it. While eating less factory farmed meat does decrease your carbon footprint.

    Thus it is not what you eat nearly as much as it is how what you eat was produced.

    This is not any different than energy actually. Electricity is not inherently a cause of AGW either. Produced by a coal plant sure. Then it is. But produced by a windmill? Certainly not. So it's not the electricity itself to blame, but rather the way the electricity is generated. Food is exactly the same as this, including meat.

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