The ‘Cowgate’ Warming ‘Error’

Last Monday, a professor and air quality expert at U.C. Davis told a conference of Chemists that despite often repeated claims, it is simply not scientifically accurate to blame livestock for climate change. Professor Frank Mitloehner’s study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Agronomy. It took on the oft repeated notion that CAFO meat production was somehow more carbon intensive than pasture raised beef and milk; or than a person can cut his carbon footprint by consuming less meat.

“We certainly can reduce our greenhouse-gas production, but not by consuming less meat and milk… but by increasing efficient meat production in developing countries, where growing populations need more nutritious food,” Mitloehner says.

That’s Not Really News

Most of us in Ag knew that already.

What is news is that Mitloehner’s study also takes aim at the 2006 United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” It claims that 18% of the worlds carbon emissions come from livestock production, more than the 15% created by cars and trucks.

Mr. Mitloehner said the claims that livestock are to blame for global warming are both “scientifically inaccurate” and a dangerous distraction from more important issues.

He reveals that the UN report lumped together digestive emissions from livestock, gases produced by growing animal feed and meat and milk processing – the so called “lifecycle analysis” – to get the highest possible result. However the report’s analysis on the transportation sector only covered emissions from the running of cars and trucks.

“They did life cycle assessment for one and not the other,” Mitloehner says. “They basically compared apples and oranges.”

The true ratio, he concludes, is just 3% of greenhouse gas emissions in America are attributable to rearing of cattle and pigs, compared with 26% from transportation.

The report removes the rationale for the EPA’s potential regulation of livestock GHG’s and the proposed “Cow Tax.”

Mitloehner gets to the heart of the issue when he criticizes highly publicized campaigns such as “Meatless Mondays” or the recent proclamation by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to create “Michigan Meatout Day” in the state, on the same date as National Ag Day.

He also makes the same commonsense observation that the Ag community has been making for a long time: Producing less meat and milk takes food directly out of the mouths of poor families all over the world.

“Globally, producing less meat is only going to mean more hunger. Feedlots are very efficient at converting animals into food. That’s something to keep in mind if our goal is to feed as many people as possible with as few resources as possible.”

Another Idol Falls

The FAO has been forced to retract its findings in the 2006 report. Pierre Gerber, a policy officer with the FAO, told the BBC he accepted Dr Mitloehner’s criticism.

“I must say honestly that he has a point – we factored in everything for meat emissions, and we didn’t do the same thing with transport,” he said.

He then went on to defend the findings on the basis that, “it’s not the point of the report. We included the comparison only because we wanted to give the reader a frame of reference.”

Since 2006, the demonizing of livestock production was a foundational tenet in the cult of global warming; another Golden Calf in Gore’s stable of lies.Cowgate” constitutes yet another in a series of blows to the warming ‘theory’ that began with “Climategate.”

In November of last year a whistleblower at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit released emails from researchers that revealed they tried to play down evidence that did not support global warming and systematically blocked researchers from publishing evidence contrary to the theory. The revelation threw into question the entire body of work completed by the University and discredited its “hockey stick” graph, made famous in Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been forced to retract its Fourth Report, the document that secured the organization’s 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Award along with Al Gore. The report claimed that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035, a claim that was not based on peer reviewed research, but on a conversation with a single scientist.

Since then a seemingly endless catalog of mistakes, misstatements, and faulty assumptions by scientists working on the IPCC’s report has been detailed, all lumped under the Climate-gate umbrella. Not surprisingly, the IPCC’s chair, Rajendra Pachauri has faced stiff criticism and calls for his resignation after he refused to apologize for or acknowledge the organizations mistake.

Even NASA and the NOAA are not free from shoddy science. recently reported that…

E-mail messages obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that NASA concluded that its own climate findings were inferior to those maintained by both the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) — the scandalized source of the leaked Climate-gate e-mails — and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center.

NASA knows well the validity of its data sets is in question. It recently updated a report with adjusted readings from measuring stations nationwide. Many stations are placed near buildings and concrete structures that absorb heat and cause elevated temperature readings.

Little Courage in the MSM

To its credit, the British press has done a fantastic job of covering the Cowgate revelation. All of the major British newspapers have looked at the initial story and have also covered the FAO apology. A columnist for the Telegraph took to the pages with a piece on the news.

The response in the American media has been somewhat muted. Predictably, FOX News has been the only major news network to look at the story. An enviro-blogger from AlterNet makes the claim that…

News agencies, newspapers and especially the blogs of Big Agriculture and the livestock industry are rubbing their hand with glee. A new analysis claims that meat may not have as great a climate impact as has recently been reported. (emphasis added)

This is an interesting statement. While the ag blogs and news sites have, of course, reported the story heavily, a quick Google search confirms that The Washington Times has been the only major newspaper to report on the news.

The one standout has been Time Magazine. In a report the author summarizes the claims made by the Mitloehner study and them promptly goes on to reaffirm everyone’s support for the global warming theory. As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal puts it…

Of course, the article ends with the ritual affirmation of belief in global warming: “For the vast majority of the scientific community, the errors that have emerged do nothing to undermine the overall consensus that climate change presents a real and pressing risk to the globe.”

Those of us outside “the scientific community,” meanwhile, wonder how it can get away with continuing calling itself “scientific” when its conclusions are impervious to empirical testing.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Walt Proctor on April 3, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Political power is based on perception. Facts are the inconvenient stumbling blocks that perception must avoid.
    Change of climate is real. Climate was the result of massive change and remains dynamic. Humanity’s possible effect on the rate of change is the open question. Science will resolve this question if given time and funding.
    Perception, thus power, can change much more rapidly than science often finds answers. Political action has a finite window and must maintain the supporting perception. Those in power, with the perception, have the ability to focus the funding to produce the results that support the perception.
    It is very refreshing to find a Scientist loyal to the direction taken by the facts. Are they strong enough in number and character to find and publish the facts before policy, based on perception, renders them meaningless?

    Thank you CFB for publishing the above article.


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