Food for thought
William Ripple and colleagues (including EDGite Clive McAlpine) reckon there’s a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions out there that has largely been ignored by policy makers – 3.6 billion domestic cattle, sheep and goats (Ripple et al, 2014). In an article in Nature Climate Change, they point out that the methane produced by these ruminants through enteric fermentation is no insignificant burp. Globally, ruminants contribute 11.6% of all greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic sources. The total area dedicated to grazing encompasses 26% of the terrestrial surface of the planet.
Ripple and co suggest that in addition to tackling greenhouse emissions, reductions in ruminant numbers and ruminant meat production would simultaneously benefit global food security, human health and biodiversity conservation. What’s more, with political will, decreases in worldwide ruminant populations could be accomplished quickly and relatively inexpensively.
Meat production, by the way, is set to double by 2050, so this is not an issue that our leaders are actively dealing with at the moment. The scientists conclude their commentary with the plea: “we need to increase awareness among the public and policymakers that what we choose to eat has important consequences for climate change.”
Ripple WJ, P Smith, H Haberl, SA Montzka, C McAlpine & DH Boucher (2014). Ruminants, climate change and climate policy. Nature Climate Change 4: 2-5.