EPA Releases Emissions Data on CAFOS — Interpretation to Follow

David Cassuto
Here’s an interesting development: EPA has released data from a national study of emissions from CAFOS  that raise pigs, broiler chickens, cattle, and turkeys.  Of course, we don’t know how interesting it is because the agency has not yet interpreted the data.  If you’re of a number-crunching bent, you can see it all here.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association — A Climate Change Hero…?

Painting by Sue Coe

David Cassuto

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?   Continue reading

Meat, Copenhagen and Climate Change

David Cassuto

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

Factory Farms, Mark Bittman and TSCA — An Unlikely Trio

David Cassuto

Intriguing blog post by Mark Bittman, of all people, wondering whether industrial meat could be illegal under TSCA , the Toxic Substances Control Act (not to be confused with Tosca, the Puccini opera).  The argument would be that TSCA gives the EPA authority to regulate substances that pose “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment,” which greenhouse gases do, and industrial agriculture is a prime source of greenhouse gases (which they are).  So… there’s a potential case to be made for the strict regulation of industrial agriculture under TSCA.

It’s a creative argument and I, of course, salute the intent.  But I’m skeptical.  As an initial matter, TSCA “does not include chemical substances subject to other US statutes such as foods and food additives, pesticides, drugs, cosmetics, tobacco, nuclear material, or munitions.” Greenhouse gases are indeed subject to other U.S. statutes (i.e. the Clean Air Act); this was the gravamen of the Massachusetts v. EPA case and the reason for the EPA’s recent “endangerment finding” that Bittman references in the post.   Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

More on Cows and Climate

fart_cow_1Following up on the post below, this article in the NYT bears a look.  Some in the dairy industry (e.g. Stonyfield Farms) are experimenting with feeding dairy cows green plants instead of corn to see if it lowers their methane output.  Guess what?  It does.

Cattle fed alfalfa and flax emit less methane than those fed the industrial ag diet of corn and soy (apparently most of the emissions come from burps rather than the other… — who knew?).  Guess what else?   Cows that eat food that they can digest naturally also live longer than those who eat grain.

I suppose I should rejoice that the dairy industry has begun examining such issues but I am too busy worrying about the likelihood that dairy and beef cattle production will double over the next three decades.  As the article mentions, the cattle industry already poses more of a threat to the atmosphere than cars and trucks combined.  Somehow, I don’t think alfalfa and flax are going to solve this little problem.

–David Cassuto