Getting the facts straight about cows and climate change – one agriculture professor vs. the U.N.

Posted on November 13, 2012

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What do you think is the world’s number 1 cause of air pollution?

Cars?

Planes?

Factories?

Cows?

In 2006 the United Nations said animals were the leading cause of greenhouse gases (because of their flatulence and belching, of course). A U.N. report called “The Long Shadow of Agriculture,” claimed livestock were responsible for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than airplanes, trains and autos combined.

This struck Dr. Frank Mitloehner at the University of California, Davis as strange. Using his own research, he found that the U.N. numbers were drastically wrong: in fact, livestock only account for about 5.8 percent of global air pollution.

After Dr. Mitloehner presented his argument in 2010, the U.N. took back its statement.

And last month the U.N. named Dr. Mitloehner chairman of its new Food and Agriculture Organization, studying how the livestock sector affects the environment.

So much for Meatless Monday — the global movement to get people to go without animal protein one day a week to help stall climate change.

Actually, since Dr. Mitloehner found that transportationaccounts for 26 percent of greenhouse gases (not 18 percent as the U.N. originally reported), maybe Motorless Monday would be a better bet.

But it’s been two years, and we haven’t heard much about that.

On Monday, Dr. Mitloehner spoke about his findings at the Montana Farm Bureau Convention in Billings, and reminded his audience that there is still a lot of work to be done in getting people to understand what the agriculture industry is all about.  He reiterated the need for ranchers and farmers to tell people about what they do.

“Everyone in agriculture needs to tell their message and invite the public to their farms and ranches,” he said, as quoted in an article by the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. “When students or the general public see for themselves what you do on your farm or ranch, the propaganda falls apart.”

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