Eating less meat won't reduce global warming: study

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The Independent Online

Eating less meat will not reduce global warming, and reports that claim it will are distracting society from finding real ways to beat climate change, a leading air quality expert said Monday.

"We certainly can reduce our greenhouse gas production, but not by consuming less meat and milk," Frank Mitloehner, an air quality expert at the University of California-Davis, said as he presented a report on meat-eating and climate change at a conference of the American Chemical Society in California.

Blaming cows and pigs for climate change is scientifically inaccurate, said Mitloehner, dismissing several reports, including one issued in 2006 by the United Nations, which he said overstate the role that livestock play in global warming.

The UN report "Livestock's Long Shadow," which said livestock cause more anthropogenic greenhouse gases than all global transportation combined, merely distract from the real issues involved in climate change and are a distraction in the quest for true solutions to global warming, said Mitloehner.

The notion that eating less meat will help to combat climate change has spawned campaigns for "meatless Mondays" and a European campaign launched late last year, called "Less Meat = Less Heat."

Former Beatle Paul McCartney, one of the world's best-known vegetarians, was a driving force behind "Less Meat = Less Heat."

"McCartney and others seem to be well-intentioned but not well-schooled in the complex relationships among human activities, animal digestion, food production and atmospheric chemistry," said Mitloehner.

"Smarter animal farming, not less farming, will equal less heat," Mitloehner said.

"Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries."

Developing countries "should adopt more efficient, Western-style farming practices, to make more food with less greenhouse gas production," added Mitloehner.

Rather than focusing on producing and eating less meat, Mitloehner said developed countries "should focus on cutting our use of oil and coal for electricity, heating and vehicle fuels."

In the United States, transportation creates an estimated 26 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, whereas raising cattle and pigs for food accounts for about three percent, he said.

The UN report, issued in 2006, said global livestock rearing was responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in carbon dioxide equivalents. The UN report said that was more than the greenhouse gases produced by transport.

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