Livestock Emissions Account for 51% of Greenhouse Gases

Katie Hance

In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported that livestock accounted for 18% of greenhouse gases, making livestock emissions “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”  However recently, Worldwatch Institute, a Washington D.C. environmental think-tank, reported that livestock emissions actually account for 51% of greenhouse gases.

Worldwatch Institute found that the FAO underestimate and overlooked some direct and indirect livestock emissions including CO2 emissions from livestock respiration, methane emissions, and emissions from clearing land to graze livestock and grow feed.  The report concluded by proposing that livestock products be replaced with soy-based and other alternatives products.  The listed benefits of doing so include slowing climate change, helping to ease the global food and water crises, improving health and nutrition, and creating additional and safer jobs (since jobs producing alternative products are more labor intensive but not as dangers as jobs in the livestock industry).

Beyond replacing livestock products with soy-based (or vegan) products, others have proposed reducing livestock emissions by:  changing the cows’ diet– replacing corn with flaxseed that mimics the natural grasses cows have evolved to eat- to reduce methane emissions; and both regulating factory farms, that produce enormous amounts of waste and emissions, and supporting small family farms, which are more environmentally sustainable.  All of these changes would reduce livestock emission.  Additionally, all of these changes would improve the welfare of livestock animals.  As this blog has previously discussed (see here and here), there is a strong link between the environment and animal welfare.

The United States government is concerned with greenhouse gas emissions and is trying to fulfill President Obama’s campaign promise to cut greenhouse gases 80% by 2050.   In light of this report claiming that livestock emissions account for 51% of greenhouse gases, it is clear that the government needs to address farming in its efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.  Hopefully, the government will address this issue and in doing so make changes that both improve the environment and the welfare of livestock animals.

7 Responses

  1. […] Livestock Emissions Account for 51% of Greenhouse Gases « Animal Blawg animalblawg.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/livestock-emissions-account-for-51-of-greenhouse-gases – view page – cached In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported that livestock accounted for 18% of greenhouse gases, making livestock emissions “one of the most significant… (Read more)In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported that livestock accounted for 18% of greenhouse gases, making livestock emissions “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” However recently, Worldwatch Institute, a Washington D.C. environmental think-tank, reported that livestock emissions actually account for 51% of greenhouse gases. (Read less) — From the page […]

  2. Vegan society is coming soon, lets work hard to make it happen. Spread this message!!😀

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by animalblawg: #animalrights Livestock Emissions Account for 51% of Greenhouse Gases http://bit.ly/oPaqn

  4. […] greenhouse gases do, and industrial agriculture is a prime source of greenhouse gases (related post here).  So… there’s a potential case to be made for the strict regulation of industrial […]

  5. […] Concerned citizens the world over have gathered in Copenhagen to hammer out a plan to arrest climate change and prevent a planetary apocalypse.  There’s much being written about the talks (check out, for example, Andy Revkin’s blog) but at least as interesting is what is neither talked about in Copenhagen nor much written about elsewhere.  I refer, of course, to animal agriculture and the fact that no comprehensive emissions reduction plan can fail to address the fact that the world’s ever-growing demand for meat is barbecuing the planet.   […]

  6. […] have nothing to do with agriculture.  Nevertheless, Big Ag is taking credit for it while also underselling its role in emissions. Such claims would be laughable if they weren’t so pernicious.  Well, actually, […]

  7. […] you know livestock is responsible for a big amount of the emission of greenhouse gasses? Up to 51%, studies suggests. Cows in particular are bad girls, outclassing even man-made cars in amounts of CO2 emission! […]

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