Unsupported Claims About Livestock and Climate Change in the Media

As a public health doctoral student, I have been taught the importance of communicating scientific information to the public, journalists, and policy makers in a careful manner, especially when dealing with complex issues.  Scientific research almost never provides clear answers, but as a scientist you should never make statements that overstep the conclusions of your work, even if it would make your life easier by simplifying the message you are trying to get across.  Describing questions that remain unanswered and limitations of studies is important.  While reading a news release last week regarding research on food animal production and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, I was suspicious that this “rule” was not being followed.

An air quality scientist at UC Davis, Professor Frank Mitloehner, has been in the press talking about implications of his research on livestock production and GHGs (here, here, and here).  He has been quoted as saying it is  “scientifically inaccurate” and a “distraction” to encourage a reduction in meat consumption as part of an effort to combat climate change.  Those are very strong statements, so I did a little digging to see if his research supports these claims. Read More >

How Can You Combat Climate Change? Nobel Laureate & Music Legend Say Eat Less Meat One Day a Week

Nobel Laureate Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Sir Paul McCartney, former Beatles superstar turned environmental activists addressed the European Parliament (EP) today (Dec. 3. 2009) in hopes of encouraging legislators to consider what actions Europeans can personally take to combat global warming, such as going Meatless on Monday. Today’s hearing entitled “Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat” was organized by EP Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott and opened by Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek.
Citing the United Nation’s report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, Pachauri and McCartney warned that global meat production is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. The United Kingdom Press Association (UKPA) quoted McCartney as saying, “People are confused about what they can do – they can try one meat-free day a week. It’s kind of interesting once you get into it.”

Dr. Robert Lawrence, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, who has long supported and served as a scientific advisor for the Meatless Monday Campaign, was invited to attend today’s hearing in Brussels. While he couldn’t make it to Belgium in time, he did provide EP leaders with a letter. Read More >

How Much Does U.S. Livestock Production Contribute to Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

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"Livestock’s Long Shadow"

A round of applause for Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein for pointing out last week the undeniable fact that meat production is a major contributor to global warming, and that consumers can make a difference by cutting out their meat consumption just one day a week. How big a difference in greenhouse gases reduction it would make in the United States has long been a topic of debate, and something I’ve wanted to clarify for quite a while. Before I explain why, I want to make it clear that there is more than enough evidence that shows reducing meat consumption nationwide would lead to dramatic improvements in environmental degradation, widespread public and personal health risks, animal welfare and environmental and social justice issues.

First off, I’m pleased to see that mainstream media outlets are finally increasing their coverage of food systems’ effects on climate change. Believe it or not, it’s taken a while for the news gatekeepers to catch on. Last year Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s research and policy director Roni Neff published a paper in the journal of Public Health Nutrition that found U.S. newspaper coverage did not reflect the increasingly solid evidence of climate change effects due to current food systems. Read More >