Saturday, April 19, 2008

Diet advice for global warming

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has put a report up on diet and climate change. Very worth reading.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some more summary information

I don't actually know of a UN report on livestock that specifically states that livestock emissions outweigh all forms of transport combined. This is inferred from the data on greenhouse gas emissions by sector.

The livestock's long shadow is an excellent report that tells you most of the facts you need (Part IV, page 82) for the livestock industry sources in general.

The IPCC probably does not tie together the meat consumption with greenhouse gas directly, which is why we have to explain it to people :) The things to look for are the Agriculture sector, and the Forestry or Land Use Change sector.

The primary gas from the livestock industry is methane (CH4), which cows and sheep produce as part of their natural digestive system (the average cow produces 400 litres of methane per day). The rest comes from manure treatment and some component is the effect grazing animals have on the land itself.

In countries that import their livestock, or are primarily grain fed, the industry has less impact from land use. The IPCC states the emissions from agriculture compared to other sectors in an excellent starting point which is a document for policy makers. In section 2 page 5 of the document there is a pie graph showing the sources of CO2-e from different sector. Agriculture is listed as contributing 13.5%, transport is 13.1%. In Australia the livestock industry makes up 71% of the agriculture sector (agriculture includes plant and animal industries). The figures for Australia are from the Initial Report to the UN 2005 data (submitted last month to the UN).

This is not the full story though, as in countries like Australia and Brazil, most livestock (cattle) are fed from pastures, and not grain fed until their last 100 days. In order to produce grazing pastures, large tracts of land are cleared, which makes up about 90% of the deforestation as well (90% of 17.4% which is 15.66%). So when you add up the cost of the industry, which combines the direct from the animals, and the secondary from the land practice of land clearing, it makes up about 30% in Australia. No livestock, no land clearing.

This is why in the options for agriculture in the Garnaut submission it states there are three options. 1: do nothing (very bad) 2: stop land clearing. 3: stop it all. The stop land clearing is not very practical, as it increases demand on grain supplies, and would be unviable in Australia to do so. Land clearing is much cheaper, which is why it must be included in emissions trading - so that the cost is bourne by the industry, and it would not be cheap any more.

The specifics to Australia come from the "Tripple Bottom Line" report from the CSIRO and University of Sydney, which is referenced in the submission.

The Bruce Poon report provides a very good summary of the CSIRO report, and what it means.

BTW: The submission was written with the objective of highlighting that the agriculture sector has been ignored in discussions to date, and all of the focus has been on electricity generation and vehicle fuel. Livestock emissions are less than electricity, but more than vehicles.

In discussions with persons of importance such as a Director of Climate Change government department, it will be important to state and agree that the #1 problem is coal fired power stations. The second highest emission sector is livestock, followed by transport. Without removing coal fired power stations world wide, global warming will become catastrophic. The removal of livestock will not solve global warming, but it will certainly delay the effects for about 40 years (est to be revised.. probably often). Also, the cost of reducing emissions needs to be fairly distributed to all industries. If agriculture is excluded, then the carbon emissions allowances for electricity and transport will have to be 30% higher than they need to be. Say that it costs $100 to remove the desired portion of the CO2-e. To meet that cost, the electricity bill and fuel bill must go up $100, since 30% of the emissions (from livestock) are not included, therefore subsidised. If livestock is included, then you can choose not to eat meat, and your electricity and fuel bill only go up by $70.00. The livestock industry have stated they will join emissions trading at some time in the future ("as soon as practicable") but that sort of language can give excuses that "they are not ready yet" for a long time, delaying vital action. On a personal note, it makes me sad that my fuel bill will be subsidising the livestock industry.

To put it into perspective, James Hansen report on how much CO2 states that we should aim for 350ppm (parts per million) of CO2-e. Currently it is 385ppm. Removing the livestock industry would remove 25ppm, which would get us half way to the safe level from todays measurements. Note that the IPCC recommendation is > 400ppm, which is based on 2005-2006 data, and hopefully will be revised.

I hope this helps, sorry it is so long. Sometimes simple questions have not-so-simple answers.

A more formal 2020 Australia submission.

TOPIC 3: Population, sustainability, climate change and water

30% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions come from the livestock component of the agriculture sector. As an organisation whose members believe in the philosophy of 'no killing' it is our duty to point out that in order to make effective changes to emissions the livestock sector must be stated as a legitimate sector for reduction. We note that the government information campaigns and the activities of government, companies and individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions already incorporate the well-known strategies of:
· Reducing energy use;
· Utilising renewable sources of energy;
· Reducing fuel use;
· Introducing a broad-based carbon trading and emission scheme to help price and regulate the unwanted production of greenhouse gases.

The key recommendations that we submit are for the performing of the following additional actions:

· The government must inform the public of the fact that the Australian consumer can take immediate action on climate change by reducing or eliminating livestock based products from their purchases;
· The government must include this fact in any information briefings on what strategies, actions or activities the general public can perform to reduce climate change, as well as being frugal, using public transport, and using renewable energy;
· There must not be a delay the inclusion of the agriculture sector from any carbon trading scheme that is introduced, for to do so would remove the quickest, simplest and most effective short-term action to reduce climate change;
· The government must assist the livestock components of the agricultural sector in their transition to either vegetable-based production farming, or in the conversion of pasture to forestry and carbon sinks, which will provide an economic benefit as a source of carbon offsets;
Assistance currently given to the livestock industry can either be transferred as assistance to change their land use, or to increase assistance to the vegetable protein based industries for manufacture and sale to domestic and international markets.

The promotion of a non-meat based diet would have the added benefits of reducing health problems, reducing land degradation, and reducing aggression. The other part of this vision for 2020 is that Australian's can be more compassionate to other people as well as animals by being aware of the consequences of the choices they make in their purchases, and what it cost. In the livestock case, it costs lives. We would prefer that Australians would consider animal life to be important, instead of just a consumable.

Livestock also consumes a disproportionate amount of water for such a dry country as this. On an ABC science program it stated that 16,000 litres of water to make one steak. We cannot afford the luxury of ignoring the full cost of our consumables like food, especially in a world that is going to get drier and more hungry.

TOPIC 4: Future directions for rural industries and rural communities

Due to predicted water and therefore food shortages, it is preferable that land use be as efficient as possible for the production of the largest quantity of food.

Meat and livestock production is a very inefficient way to produce protein, as it takes approximately 6 times as much vegetable protein to make the equivalent of meat protein. Meat and livestock also consume a considerably larger quantity of water than crop lands, which in a dry (and becoming drier) land such as this, it does not make sense to put so much strain on our depleted resources for such an optional product. Meat is not compulsory. Also, grazing lands can be converted to carbon sinks, and be profitable under the emissions trading scheme for offsetting emissions.

It would be preferable if grazing land were converted to other activities that can have a similar economic benefit without the excessive waste and cost. Reduction in meat production would require an increase in vegetable protein production (wheat gluten and soy bean), which requires less land clearing. Efficiency and the use of scarce resources can be brought about through the emissions trading scheme for greenhouse gases, where the true cost of livestock (30% of Australia's emissions) can be paid for. This would have to also include a social campaign, similar to reducing the consumption of harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco. It should be OK to say no to meat, and not feel un-Australian.

It is anticipated that there will be food shortages around the world due to climate change. By converting the less efficient meat production to vegetable production, there will be a larger quantity of food to go around the world.

More and more on Grand Pland For the Future... if we have one

This is a copy of a 2020Australia thinggy that I put onto Preserved for posterity here.

The proportionate emissions from Australian industry must have a fair, proportionate response.

Few people seem to realise that 30% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the livestock industry. These are net emissions, even including the carbon storage that agriculture has by its nature. This is not vegetarianism hobby-horsing around (even though I have not eaten meat for 15 years now, with no ill-effects). This is a valid concern that our second-largest emission economic sector is being ignored from the total problem of emissions reduction. 55% comes from stationary power generation. 30% from livestock, 16% from transport, and then some others (waste mgt etc)

A summary of the CSIRO “Balancing Act” report that is the source of this information can be found here.

Half the livestock emissions are direct methane production (about 400 litres per day per cow) the other half comes from the livestock industry practice of broad scale clearing of 1000’s of hectares of land each year.

By simply changing diet and land practices, 30% of our emissions are gone. Easy. Conversion of land clearing practices to carbon sink activities (carbon offsets from tree planting and BioChar operations) would improve this ratio, and in fact provide carbon offsets that can be used domestically or traded internationally in the future. Certainly part of the estimated $20billion that will come from the sale of emissions permits would be well spent in assisting the conversion.

Rant On
People are willing to reduce electricity consumption, people are willing to reduce fuel consumption. Why is reducing meat consumption somehow taboo? Is the livestock industry so important that in times of crisis, when emissions must be reduced, that to point it out is to evoke the reaction “oh, no, you can’t go there”

The simple economics of the problem must outweigh any argument that we can’t question the consumption of animals because we enjoy the taste, or texture, or we are too lazy to find alternatives. At $40.00 per tonne of CO2-e the livestock industry emissions cost is about $6 billion dollars. (current price is about 22 euro) ... and that is not including the cost of land clearing (double it again)

Maybe it is too politically incorrect to suggest that maybe not killing things we don’t need to is a good idea. How about it is cheaper as well as less emissions? Maybe that will work.
Rant Off

I whole heartedly agree in reducing coal emissions, increasing fuel efficiency, switching to renewable and low emissions technologies, but please, let’s not ignore the second largest emitting industry.

To do so means that the emission permits from any emissions trading scheme will have to be 30% larger for other industries to compensate.

I personally would not want an electricity bill or fuel bill that is higher than it needs to be so that I can subsidise such a wasteful, unnecessary industry.

*phew*… got a bit emotional there

Actually all I ask is that the true cost of agriculture emissions be placed into the proposed emissions trading scheme, instead of waiting too long, when it will be too late. The world has indulged our fussy eating habits long enough, and soon there will be no time left.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Where are we now, and where to go (no GPS)

Climate change has once again come to the fore of my mind... almost like there is nothing else going on.

Where are we now? At the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration there is a hand set of graphs which show the current measured CO2 levels. This will be handy later on, as we will see if any climate change strategy has an overall impact over time.

This would be where the figure of 385ppm came from as the current level. It is worrying that the IPCC is recommending above 400ppm, and talking about 450-500ppm. Given the uncertainty of the upper level needed so that we do not drastically change the world from the one we became civilised in, this seems a tad high. 350ppm is stated, but 320ppm would be safer given uncertainty, and the possiblity of a different natural phenominon taking place.

Looking a bit deeper into the whole CO2-e footprint, most online calculators do not include consumable such as food, and the CO2-e that went into them. Pity, as I would like to feel more smug than I already do for having a plant-based diet (with dairy... life without cheese is meaningless) :-)

Given that the planet has not had a warming event like this, so suddenly releasing the stored C as CO2 on a worldwide scale, the actual reactions will be hard to anticipate. With mass extinctions taking place right now, there will be new evolutionary niches for live to take hold and exploit. Expect hot-water penguins the size of a volkswagen.