Eating less meat and dairy products won’t have major impact on global warming

Some interesting assertions from the American Chemical Society about the purported effects of meat/dairy consumption on global warming. We’ve all heard that cow farts are the reason that Antarctica is bellyflopping into the ocean, and there are some excellent environmental critiques of the ecological and ethical horror that is industrial livestock production. I think we can all agree that imprisoning PCB-saturated cows that shit into our water supply is a bad idea, and we might need Antarctica in future, so let’s move on from there.

An interesting question, though, is what we can do about the environmental impact of eating animals if we choose to eat them. The ACS offers a somewhat ambivalent solution with lots of intriguing — and undoubtedly contentious — complexities. For example, I’m not quite convinced that spreading the wonders of Western animal husbandry is really the solution. After all, our petrol-based nitrogen fertilizers sure can grow a lot of Monsanto corn, but do we really want to?

(Also, in the context of cow toots, please pause to snicker at “bum rap”. Yes, I am a 36-year old PhD.)

Cutting back on consumption of meat and dairy products will not have a major impact in combating global warming — despite repeated claims that link diets rich in animal products to production of greenhouse gases. That’s the conclusion of a report presented here today at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Air quality expert Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., who made the presentation, said that giving cows and pigs a bum rap is not only scientifically inaccurate, but also distracts society from embracing effective solutions to global climate change. He noted that the notion is becoming deeply rooted in efforts to curb global warming, citing campaigns for “meatless Mondays” and a European campaign, called “Less Meat = Less Heat,” launched late last year.

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