Methane produced by cows and other livestock does not contribute the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), according to an expert in air quality.
Dr Frank Mitloehner, a professor of animal science at the University of California (UC), said claims livestock production was causing global warming ignored the true impact of methane on the environment.
Speaking at the ‘Climate Change in Agriculture: A balanced Approach’ in Dublin last month, organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Dr Mitloehner outlined why methane should be ‘decoupled’ from other GHG emissions.
The biggest problem, Dr Mitloehner explained, was the lack of understanding about methane, stating there was a specific contrast between livestock and fossil fuel emissions.
He said: “The livestock related emissions go through a cycle, while the fossil fuel related ones go through a one-way street.
“This cycle means, provided we do not add any additional livestock to the earth, we are not adding methane, which means we are not causing additional warming.
“For those who say cows contribute the most greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that is simply not true.”
Dr Mitloehner highlighted controversial data miscalculations had been responsible for deflecting the real culprit of emissions, which he claimed was the use of fossil fuels, particularly linked to transport.
Taking aim at the United Nation’s FAO report back in 2006, which falsely claimed livestock contributed 18 per cent of GHG emissions, he said: “It looked at everything from soil, to feed, to animals, to manure, to transportation of goods, to consumption of goods, what is called the ‘life-cycle assessment’ – for transportation they only looked at tailpipe emissions.
“This meant they only calculated what comes out of the exhaust pipe of vehicles and not the production of cars, trucks, planes, trains, cranes, roads, harbours, airports and so on.
“That was an apples and oranges comparison.”
William Taylor from Farmers For Action (FFA) welcomed Dr Mitloehner’s assessment, claiming it is ‘time for the politicians and vegans to read the facts from Dr Mitloehner’.
He said: “Banning air travel every other day will lower the earth’s temperature by one degree, thereby buying the time to eliminate the fossil fuels consumed on the ground and replace fossil fuel in the air asap by speeding up innovation already in progress.”
Dr Mitloehner said the long term effects of this report had created a ‘frenzy’ of misinformation around livestock as a greater emitter than transport, which he claimed was a ‘dangerous destruction for reality’.