Guess what? Apparently, human contributions to climate change is still iffy science and even if it weren’t, the beef industry sequesters rather than releases carbon and should be rewarded for its zealous fight against climate change. So says the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). According to the NCBA, agriculture was responsible for less than 6% of total U.S. GHG emissions while land use, land use change, and forestry activities resulted in a net carbon soil sequestration of approximately 17.4% of total U.S. CO2 emissions, or 14.9% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, “Agriculture actually provides a significant net benefit to the climate change equation,” said Tamara Theis, chief environmental counsel for the NCBA. “Rather than being subject to overly-burdensome regulations, agriculture should be rewarded for the carbon reductions we provide.”
Note the deft rhetorical move: land use, land use change and forestry do not necessarily have anything 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, they’re still laughable. But they’re also dangerous. The NCBA has just filed suit in the DC Circuit challenging EPA’s right to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Now, you may be saying — isn’t this what Massachusetts vs. EPA was all about? How can the NCBA challenge a Supreme Court ruling?
Alas, it’s more complicated than that. The Court found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act and that the EPA Administrator must (under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act) determine greenhouse gases emissions cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare, or whether the science is too uncertain to make such a finding. Bush’s EPA never acted on the Court’s directive but Obama’s has. On December 7th, 2009, the EPA determined that greenhouse gases were indeed a dangerous pollutant under the Clean Air Act and issued an Endangerment Finding.
It is that finding that the NCBA now challenges. Its argument is the finding could hurt American agriculture and besides the science is iffy. “This unilateral move by the EPA jeopardizes our ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace,” said Theis. In addition “It’s premature to issue this kind of finding, especially given the recent controversy surrounding the scientific validity of alleged human contributions to climate change,”
These types of maneuvers were expected and (in my view) unlikely to succeed on the merits. However, what they can and will do is cause delay and erode what little political will exists for taking genuine steps to combat climate change. Hard on the heels of Copenhagen, where it took so much to accomplish so little, this cynical ploy of the NCBA offers another reminder of how hard it is to get people to act in anything other than their own short term interests.
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: | animal ethics, animal law, animal suffering, animal welfare, CAFOS, Clean Air Act, climate change, environmental ethics, environmentalism, EPA, factory farms, farmed animals, global warming, greenhouse gases, industrial farming, National Cattlemen's Beef Association