greenhouse-emissions

2

Swedish leaders troll Trump without saying a word

  • Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin on Friday signed sweeping new climate change legislation while posing for a photograph which appeared unambiguously to be a dig at Trump’s administration.
  • The ambitious new climate change law promises zero net greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden by 2045.
  • Lövin appeared to replicate the now-viral photo of Trump, surrounded by men, signing an anti-abortion executive order. Instead, her photo exclusively featured women. Read more.
2

Humans are destroying the planet 170x faster than natural forces, scientists say

  • Surprise! Humans are turning the earth into a garbage fire a lot quicker than previously thought.
  • According to Australian National University researchers, humans are speeding up climate change 170 times faster than natural forces.
  • “Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions over the past 45 years have increased the rate of temperature rise to 1.7 degrees Celsius per century, dwarfing the natural background rate,” ANU climate professor Will Steffen said in a statement on the university’s news page. Read more (2/13/17 3:31 PM)

follow @the-future-now

4

Here’s how hospitals can heal through sustainability

  • According to a June 2016 study, if the U.S. health care industry were a nation, it would rank 13th in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • While a previous study found the health care industry caused 8% of the country’s carbon emissions, the new study found these emissions caused 12% of acid rain, 10% of smog formation and 9% of respiratory disease from particulate matter in 2013.
  • Moreover, hospitals are among the top 10 in their communities for water use and the single largest users of chemical agents. The volume of hospital waste is staggering — more than 2.3 million tons per year.
  • By taking steps to limit these environmental impacts, the health care industry can promote the long-term health of our communities, particularly the most vulnerable populations. Read more

In collaboration with Dignity Health

anonymous asked:

You can be vegan all you want, good for you, but not being vegan doesn't make someone a bad person. Not everyone in the world will convert to being a vegan so maybe y'all should stop being angry people and just get over it.

Of course the whole world will never be vegan, but I strongly believe that someday a majority of the world will be vegan. In fact, the world will have to go mostly vegan or we are screwed, anon. Veganism is the future, out of necessity, and the UN agrees.

Animal agriculture is destroying our world. 

No, not being vegan does not make someone a bad person… but if you’re aware of the slaughter you’re contributing to and you’re able to change that and choose not to, that is extremely problematic. Especially if you mourn the deaths of companion animals, but not the ones on your plate. 

independent.co.uk
World must hit zero carbon emissions 'well before 2040', scientists warn
New research suggests it will be an ‘enormous challenge’ to prevent global warming getting out of hand

Humans must reduce net greenhouse gases emissions to zero “well before 2040” in order to ensure global warming does not go above 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, scientists have warned after carrying out a study using a sophisticated new computer model.

The analysis suggests that efforts to prevent temperatures rising to potentially dangerous levels may have to rely heavily on “negative emissions” technology that is still in its infancy.

Commenting on the study, Professor Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, said the “important” research spelled out the “enormous challenge” ahead.

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, the world committed to prevent global warming from going above 2C but also attempt to restrict it to as close as 1.5C as possible amid mounting evidence that dangerous effects could kick in sooner than previously thought.

Continue Reading.

A man with a nasty habit of suing the EPA now leads it, because why not?

Congrats, America: We now have a Senate-confirmed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) again. 

Oh, except that administrator is Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who sued the EPA multiple times over what he sees as its overly aggressive environmental regulations. Plus, he denies the mainstream scientific conclusion that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of global warming. 

So, there are those little caveats.

SEE ALSO: Exxon’s former CEO is now our secretary of state. So, there’s that.

Pruitt has also questioned the dangers of mercury contamination and other hazardous substances the EPA is in charge of regulating. His record is so one-sided that the Sierra Club calls him simply, “… The most dangerous EPA Administrator in the history of our country.”

Pruitt’s reputation as an agency foe eager to give states more autonomy in regulating air and water pollution, combined with the EPA transition team’s gag order of the agency, has instilled so much fear among the EPA rank-and-file that agency scientists were among the thousands of people calling their senators on Thursday urging them to vote no on the nomination, a rare step for federal employees to take. 

Pruitt, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy secretary nominee Rick Perry, all have expressed views doubting climate science findings, and each of them are in charge of agencies deeply involved with the U.S. response to the global issue.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt said he does not quite agree with the vast majority of climate scientists whose work has shown that greenhouse gases are causing global warming. 

“I believe the ability to measure with precision the degree of human activity’s impact on the climate is subject to more debate on whether the climate is changing or whether human activity contributes to it,” he said.

“If you don’t believe in climate science, you don’t belong at the EPA,“ said May Boeve, executive director of the climate advocacy group 350.org, in a statement on Friday. 

What happens now?

Pruitt is expected to try to dismantle large parts of the EPA’s portfolio of regulations and science research put in place under prior presidents, particularly the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Without that plan, the U.S. cannot live up to its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. 

However, Trump may be poised to pull the U.S. out of that pact entirely, which would make dismantling the Clean Power Plan easier. Trump is also expected to sign executive orders as early as Friday that would begin rolling back the EPA’s climate change work, though it’s easier to order that than it is to actually accomplish it.

Remarkably, Pruitt was confirmed only hours after a judge in Oklahoma ordered the release of nearly 3,000 emails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies from his time as attorney general. 

We’d like to congratulate Mr. Pruitt on his confirmation! We look forward to welcoming him to EPA.

— U.S. EPA (@EPA) February 17, 2017

Senators never got a chance to factor those into their decision-making. 

Senate Democrats tried in vain to delay the vote to allow senators to see the emails, which stemmed from a state lawsuit filed by the Center for Media and Democracy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. Those organizations were concerned about Pruitt’s cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry there. 

Pruitt’s backers, including mainstream Republican groups like FreedomWorks, see him as an administrator to will try to get red tape off the backs of business owners, despite studies showing that the EPA’s regulations don’t stifle job growth.

A 2014 New York Times investigation already established that Pruitt often did favors for the oil and gas industry, particularly for major donors to the Republican Attorneys General Association. These included writing letters to lawmakers and the EPA seeking regulatory changes.

In the end, Pruitt won confirmation narrowly, on a 52 to 46 vote, garnering the most "no” votes of any EPA nominee since the agency was founded in 1970. 

BONUS: NASA timelapse shows just how quickly our Arctic sea ice is disappearing

2

Trump administration wants to cut most of EPA’s climate protection program

  • The White House wants to cut an Environmental Protection Agency climate protection program by 70%, reducing its funding to $29 million, a source familiar with the Trump administration’s proposed budget told Reuters on Thursday.
  • The program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions like methane, one of the most potent of these gasses and 21 times more harmful than carbon. Read more (3/3/17 10:14 AM)

follow @the-future-now

anonymous asked:

Hey there, I've been really enjoying reading your blog and have been learning a lot. I'd like to ask about some claims I see being made online about that everyone needs to stop eating meat/animal products imminently to lessen climate change. Is that the full picture? Most articles I see online promote a "plant based" (read: vegan) diet, but is it feasible for everyone to even do that? Would it even help? Thanks :)

This is a very complex question, and a lot has been written on it from different perspectives, but I have to say that it definitely is not the full picture.  To be honest, the question you asked could become an entire paper and/or thesis, but here are some reasons why everyone stopping eating animals immediately is neither feasible nor sustainable for people or the climate. 

The fact of the matter is, we have to feed -everyone- with the land and resources we have.  Climate change aside, that is the problem ag seeks to solve. So a solution is not truly sustainable unless it is capable of feeding everyone and is better for the climate than alternatives. Ok? Here we go!

So, does going animal-free work to feed everyone?

  • Many people (myself included) cannot safely exist on a diet devoid of animal products. Whether it be due to celiac, soy allergies, corn allergies, other gut disorders, many people need at least some animal products to survive. I have celiac. I also cannot eat soy more than occasionally without getting very sick and risking permanent health consequences. The majority of the items on the list of foods I cannot eat without getting sick and/or putting my health at risk are plant-derived. I am far from the only one like this. 
  • Allergies to plant-derived foods are far more common than to animal-derived ones.  Of the top 8 allergens estimated to cause >90% of allergic reactions by the Mayo Clinic, half of them are plant sources, and of the plant sources listed (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat) those are common sources of protein for vegetarian/vegan diets. If we cut out animal-based protein, where are people with these allergies going to get protein?
  • Saying “everyone can eat vegan” is ableist, and denies the reality of many people, myself and many of my family members included.

Going totally vegan may actually be bad for some ecosystems

  • Grasslands and rangelands need grazing to survive. These lands evolved under pressure from native herbivores, which in turn were kept in check by predators. Humans have largely eliminated those predators from a good chunk of the world, or severely reduced them (see the issue with deer overpopulation in the US due to human elimination of predators). 
  • Even if all the land currently grazed by herbivores was returned to wild populations, we risk herbivore overpopulation issues and long-term environmental degradation. If we just remove all grazing herbivores, we wind up with habitat degradation and in many places, increased fuel for forest fires, which causes its own problems. Removing herbivores also changes ecosystem balance for many other species that rely on herbivores to clear out excess brush, provide manure, or alter habitats.
  • A totally vegan diet for humanity wastes land.  (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/earth/going-vegan-isnt-actually-th/) Most grazing land is unsuitable for row crops without massive inputs of fertilizer and tilling/irrigation, which themselves can have a fairly high carbon footprint, and repeated tilling can be very bad for certain kinds of soil. (http://cropwatch.unl.edu/tillage/structure
  • Have you ever seen the rangelands of California or Montana? It would be extremely difficult to grow row crops there, but we are really good at growing cattle and sheep there!  Since grassland is 26% of the world’s land area, and 70% of the world’s agricultural area, any diet that doesn’t use pasture-produced animal products will be wasting a lot of land that could be feeding people. (http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/agpc/doc/grass_stats/grass-stats.htm)
  • As the world population increases, pressure on existing land usage is going to increase, and so agriculture needs to rise to meet this challenge.

So I think we can make the case that a), a vegan diet will not feed everyone, and b) wastes land that could be used to feed people. So by default it’s not sustainable.

But what about livestock and climate change?

  • Livestock production of all types sum up to 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/197623/icode/),and 24% of global greenhouse gases come from agriculture, forestry, and other land use, according to the FAO. That includes plant and animal agriculture. (source: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data)
  •  Of this, livestock are a major contributor, but so is soil management, which is needed for growing both human food and feed for livestock.
  • By contrast, electricity/heat, industry, and transport account for 25, 21, and 14% of greenhouse gases, respectively. 
  • In the US, livestock account for just 4.2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. To contrast, transportation and energy production account for 27% and 31% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. 
  • The contribution of livestock to greenhouse gases is higher in developing countries, partially due to a lot of livestock eating poorer quality feed or needing longer to reach market, and the fact that grass-fed livestock do produce more methane than livestock fed on lower-fiber feeds. 
  • But as discussed above, those grass-eating livestock are necessary for producing food where other crops can’t grow, and keeping ecosystems healthy.
  • So for the US and other developed countries, focusing on livestock seems a bit shortsighted compared to developing cleaner energy and transport, right? (source: http://www.afia.org/rc_files/801/livestocks_contribution_to_climate_change_facts_and_fiction.pdf Disclaimer: the author of this piece is one of my advisors) 
  • The US EPA here lists a lot of good ways we can improve agriculture to reduce climate change https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions#land-use-and-forestry but the fact of the matter is, while ag and livestock ag in particular contribute a good amount to climate change, it’s got a big job to do - feeding everyone!
  • Herbivores like cows and sheep and goats are needed to preserve native forage-based ecosystems and provide food, but at the cost of producing methane that contributes to climate change. However, if we got rid of every cow and sheep and replaced their contribution to human diets with chicken and pigs, we’d have to grow extra food for them, which means more greenhouse gases to grow those foods, and we’re back at square one
  • To me, the real benefit of livestock, especially on range situations, is that they turn human-inedible plant protein into human-edible protein. That’s a significant reason why they’re so important to the human food supply.
  • Livestock also eat a lot of byproducts (brewer’s mash, hulls, tomato pulp, etc) that would otherwise go to waste.  This reduces the impact of their feed production and of waste disposal in other industries. We’d have a lot of reject feed/byproducts sitting around if we got rid of livestock, and those would have greenhouse gas production from their waste disposal.

For me, it amounts to priorities - we know a vegan diet won’t feed everyone and it wastes land. We don’t have enough arable land to feed everyone on a vegan diet, even if everyone could go vegan. 

We have researchers like myself and my colleagues working to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions no matter what they farm (greenhouse gas emissions are a waste, remember, and cost farmers money). Livestock, especially in range situations and developing countries, eat a lot of stuff that would otherwise go to waste, and help keep ecosystems healthy. 

So it’s not just the analytical life cycle of the animal and it’s impacts, it’s what would the effect on climate change be by a) removing livestock and b) dealing with the human food needs met by doing so? 

To me, livestock earn their keep, and while it is our job to keep improving livestock systems to be more efficient and help  prevent worse climate change, we also need to remember that livestock are an important part of the sustainability of existing systems. 

So hope that answered your question, anon! For more info, check out this video presentation that you might find neat, as well: http://articles.extension.org/pages/28311/clearing-the-air-on-animal-ag-and-greenhouse-gases

5

People’s Climate March across the U.S.

Thousands of people across the U.S. are marching on President Donald Trump’s hundredth day in office to demand action on climate change.

In Washington, D.C., large crowds on Saturday made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue in sweltering heat. They planned to encircle the White House.

Organizers say about 300 other protest marches are expected around the country.

Participants in the Peoples Climate March say they’re objecting to Trump’s rollback of restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants, among other things. (AP)

(Photos: Mike Theiler/Reuters, Marc Piscotty/Getty Images, Astrid Riecken/Getty Images, Mary Altaffer/AP, Mike Theiler/Reuters)

See more photos from the protests on Yahoo News.

theguardian.com
The fossil fuel industry's invisible colonization of academia
Corporate capture of academic research by the fossil fuel industry is an elephant in the room and a threat to tackling climate change.
By Geoffrey Supran

Fossil fuel interests – oil, gas, and coal companies, fossil-fueled utilities, and fossil fuel investors - have colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities, and much of energy science too. And they have done so quietly, without the general public’s knowledge.

The Surprising Truth:

Did you know that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined? And that one hamburger requires as much water as 32 showers? We didn’t either before watching Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret! Be sure to watch it in spirit of Earth Day tomorrow!

environmental rambles #1: the market is unequipped to handle the fight against climate change

It just occurred to me that for all I post about politics, I don’t actually post about my area of expertise—that being environmental policy and sustainable measures. And as I’m getting deeper into conversations with people, I forget how much I just assume is known. So here’s a loose series I’m going to begin. I have no outline or general idea about how long these posts will be.

The key issue when tackling *climate change* or environmental degradation (ugh do I have to write a post that explains how this is a real problem? Please no.), and frankly the key issue when tackling anything in this political climate, is money. Because solving any problem usually requires shelling out, and we have a very entrenched economic system where profit is valued above all else. For instance, with healthcare, consider how many conversations there were about the burdens on small to mid-sized business, or costs shifting to states, or how best to implement price controls. It’s the first thing anyone looks at.

Climate change is tough, because our largest sources of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions are electricity, transportation, and heating. It seems logical to tackle the actual shit we burn to power this stuff, which is why there’s a push for renewables, or for nuclear energy (97% renewable, but that 3% is a Problem). Ditto for mixing our gas with ethanol (there’s claims that GHG emissions are net-zero because corn fields act as carbon sinks, but honestly, corn production in the USA is its own damn topic), or the push to mass transit, telecommuting, the purchasing of off-sets for travel, and electric cars.

Keep reading

2

Dark-eyed Junco–A Shadow of its Former Self, Oakton, Virginia, March 16, 2017

If there was any doubt over President Trump’s views on climate change, those doubts evaporated with the unveiling of his proposed federal budget on Thursday.

The budget would end programs to lower domestic greenhouse gas emissions, slash diplomatic efforts to slow climate change and cut scientific missions to study the climate.

“It’s terrible from the perspective of having any concern at all about climate change,” says Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute’s climate program and a professor at George Mason University.  (The Two-Way BREAKING NEWS FROM NPR:  NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE)

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has already put himself at odds with the vast majority of climate scientists. In a TV interview today, Pruitt said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change. As NPR’s Nathan Rott reports, his own agency has said otherwise.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The question asked of Mr. Pruitt on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” was whether or not he believed it’s been proven that carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is the, quote, “primary control knob for climate.” Here’s the EPA administrator’s response.

SCOTT PRUITT: No. I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do. And there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. That - so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.

DAVID TITLEY: I don’t know what Mr. Pruitt does or does not believe in. And honestly it doesn’t really matter what he believes in.

ROTT: This is David Titley, the director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate at Pennsylvania State University and a former rear admiral in the U.S. Navy.

TITLEY: The atmosphere doesn’t care what any single person believes. It’s just going to keep getting warmer, and the climate’s going to change as long as we keep increasing the amount of greenhouse gases.

ROTT: The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees with Titley’s point. A report by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just earlier this year said that changes in the planet’s surface temperature are largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions. The EPA’s own website says, quote, “it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.” Jennifer Francis is a research professor at Rutgers University.

JENNIFER FRANCIS: It would be hard to find a scientist that disagreed with that. The evidence is overwhelming.

ROTT: Pruitt’s comments to the contrary, though, aren’t out of the ordinary for him. During his confirmation hearing, he said that the degree to which humans impact climate change is in question. He’s written on the topic, and as Oklahoma’s attorney general, he sued to stop the Obama administration’s biggest regulation to combat climate change, the clean power plan, with the backing of the oil and gas industry.

Donald Trump has promised to get rid of that plan, as well as another major regulation that aims to limit carbon emissions from cars and trucks. An executive order that would set those changes in motion is expected just next week. Francis thinks all of that is concerning.

FRANCIS: The longer it takes us to get a grip and start reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases, the worse problem it’s going to get and the harder it’s going to be to fix it.

ROTT: The EPA actually has a legal mandate to regulate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide because of a Supreme Court decision in 2007. But Pruitt in his interview today said he’d like to see Congress weigh in on that, as well. Nathan Rott, NPR News.

Read more: http://www.npr.org/2017/03/09/519499975/epa-head-scott-pruitt-doubts-basic-consensus-on-climate-change

theguardian.com
Q&A: Forests soak up greenhouse gases, so how do we ensure their protection?
Join a panel of experts from 2.30-4pm on Thursday 30 March to discuss the resources needed to fight deforestation
By Rachel Banning-Lover

Happening today!

anonymous asked:

You claimed that glassfed beef produces more gas than grain. Can you explain why? And does that mean that letting cattle graze on a natural grassland or pampas unsuitable for crops is bad?

What a good question! Again, you could write a whole paper on this, or a thesis, but let me try to hit the major points. I’m  going to have to break up the answer into two bits here:

1) Grass-fed animals, on an individual animal level, produce more methane per day than grain-fed ones. But why is that?

Let’s start with a view of what’s going on inside the animal: 

  • Herbivores like cattle and sheep have a very complex ecosystem of microbes in their gut, particularly in the part of the stomach called the rumen. 
  • The rumen is like a giant fermentation vat - it’s anaerobic (no oxygen), warm, and has a pH ranging from neutral-ish to slightly acidic. 
  • Feed goes in, gets regurgitated and chewed to break it down into smaller pieces, and then the rumen microbes break it down.  
  • While some nutrients exit the rumen into the acid part of the stomach without microbes getting a hold of them, the majority of nutrients in feed go to keep the microbes healthy and happy. 
  • The byproducts of the microbes’ actions on these feeds help feed the animal

The basic equation is this: 

Feed + microbes -> VFAs + CO2 + methane +microbial protein

  • VFAs, volatile fatty acids, are short-chain fatty acids that get absorbed by the gut and used for energy - in fact, these account for >70% of a cow or sheep’s energy!  
  • Rumen microbes use nitrogen in feed to grow and make more microbes, and when they get washed out of the rumen into the acid stomach, become a major source of protein to the animal, especially on low-protein diets. 
  • Waste products like carbon dioxide and methane get burped out and become greenhouse gases.

Methane is what the rumen does with excess hydrogen. 

  • There’s been research that shows that the level of hydrogen in the rumen affects the rate of certain chemical reactions, especially ones needed for microbial function, and too much hydrogen can make it harder for some microbes to function.  
  • So methane production by specific methanogenic microbes reduces hydrogen in the rumen, allowing microbes to go on their merry way. 

What you feed cows alters how much hydrogen microbes produce as a byproduct of fermenting feed.  

  • The major VFAs, acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are always going to be produced, but the ratios differ depending on diet. 
  • When acetate or butyrate is produced, so is hydrogen, and hydrogen levels rise in the rumen.  
  • When propionate is produced, the reaction uses up hydrogen, and hydrogen in the rumen decreases.
  • Pasture-based diets contain lots of cellulose, which produces mostly acetate when fermented.  
  • This is good, because cellulose is one of the things that humans definitely can’t digest, so cows are turning human inedible food into tasty meat and milk
  •  But it also means that there’s more hydrogen in the rumen because of the higher acetate levels.  
  • Mostly-grain diets, which have more starch, favor propionate, so less hydrogen and therefore less methane gets produced by the animal itself

There are other more complex effects involving different microbial groups, plant compounds, and pH effects, but let’s stick with this for now. 

There’s also the factor that methane production is driven by how much feed enters the rumen, which is driven by how much feed the animal needs to meet its energy requirements.  Forages usually have lower energy per pound of feed and are less digestible, so an animal needs to eat more. This, combined with acetate being the major VFA, means that on a per day basis, a grass-fed animal will in general produce more methane than a grain-fed one. 

However, the nice thing about grass-fed beef is that the inputs to the system are lower.  On native pasture, the only inputs are often rain and manure.  On managed pasture, there may be irrigation, seeding, fertilizer, etc.  

For grain-based diets, you have to add on the energy (and greenhouse gases) from producing the feed, processing the feed, and transporting the feed, versus the greenhouse gases from managing pasture.  But grain-fed cattle eat a lot of byproducts from other industries that would otherwise go to waste (beet pulp, distiller’s grains, barley hulls) so you need to consider that. Emissions from feed can make up a good chunk of the overall emissions associated with animal production, so the answer gets even more complex fast.  

This specific kind of analysis, of assigning greenhouse gas emissions and summing them up for a product, is part of a technique called Life Cycle Assesment - that is, looking at the life cycle of a product to determine the inputs and outputs and the emissions associated with them.  I’m doing one right now on sheep production in California and it’s utterly fascinating, but it shows that in these situations, there often isn’t an easy answer, and it depends a lot on where you set the boundaries and what you define as an impact. The debate is ongoing, and there really isn’t one clear-cut answer right now. 

So, moving on to part 2 of your question:

Is it bad to let cattle graze land unsuitable for crops because the animals themselves produce more methane than the same cow on a grain-based diet? DEFINITELY NOT.  

Cattle grazing on rangelands is definitely sustainable if managed right.

 I discussed this on my previous post here http://animalsustainability.tumblr.com/post/159885334236/hey-there-ive-been-really-enjoying-reading-your but grasslands need large herbivores to survive, and given how much land is grassland, not producing livestock on grasslands wastes a lot of land that could feed people. Removing herbivores also changes ecosystem balance for many other species that rely on herbivores to clear out excess brush, provide manure, or alter habitats.

If we don’t graze these native rangelands with something, then we risk habitat degradation and impacts on the other species that live there.  Large herbivores are an important part of the grasslands’ circle of life, and help promote ecosystem health if managed sustainably.  Grass-fed systems are also important for using land responsibly to feed everyone. 

Methane is just one part of the big picture. We need to look at ecosystem health, and the methane and other GHGs needed to produce what we’d feed these cattle if we didn’t feed them pasture.

So to answer your question, Both grain-fed and pasture-based systems have their place in modern agriculture, and neither is strictly better than the other.  And the fact is: all systems have the potential to be sustainable!

Thanks for staying with me this long. Here, have some cute Herefords as a treat (one of my favorite beef breeds). They have such sweet faces. Image credit: Irish Hereford Breed Society