Sunday, May 06, 2007

Coffee Talk

Global Warming (again!)

I know we have talked about Global Warming before, but this topic just won't go away, so here are my latest thoughts on this topic.

If you are a person who is following the global warming discussion then you may be looking for a way to reduce your contribution to the problem. If you go to the EPA's website and click "What You Can Do", they give you 9 steps to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

1. Change 5 Lights - Use energy star bulbs
2. Look to buy more Energy Star labeled products
3. Heat and Cool Smartly
4. Use better insulation
5. Use Green Power
6. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
7. Be Green in your yard
8. Use Water Efficiently
9. Spread the word

Now these are all good things to do, and they will undoubtedly cut down on your electric bill, but there is something greater that can be done. The major flaw in recommendations is the blind focus on carbon dioxide (CO2) when it has been suggested by several experts (Dr. James Hansen) that Carbon Dioxide is not the main cause the recent warming trends. The fact is that the main non-CO2 greenhouse gas contributor is methane. According to EarthSave, methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas then CO2. Methane is produced in small amounts by coal mines and landfills (please recycle), but the major contributor animal agriculture which produces more than 100 million tons of methane per year. About 85% of that production comes from the digestive processes of livestock.

This problem is starting to gain more attention, in February, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held a symposium to address this very problem. Henning Steinfeld of the FAO had this to say, "Extensive livestock production plays a critical role in land degradation, climate change, water and biodiversity loss".

The result of all of this is the new solution to Global Warming: "GO VEGETARIAN!"
Talk amongst yourselves...


Dan said...

Ok, now you're just pushing your own agenda and being irresponsible. I think if anything, the production of methane and the affect it has on global warming only proves that it's a much more natural occurance than people think.

I predict next we really are going to hear about how we need to cut back on our red meat consumption to save the environment. It's because of this that we have so much livestock and it's a huge industry, especially in the United States.

You know what else makes the United States great and is a huge industry? Bread. I think someone needs to talk about how bad bread is for you and makes you fat and lazy.

Seriously, if we're going to just attack all American based industries to try and ruin our economy, let's go all in. Why stop at cars, airlines, energy production, military development, livestock, agriculture, and our luxury of entertainment?

If we all just lived as a community based on natural living, vegetable eating, natural medicine, meditation and social welfare, the world would be a much better place. I'm sure no one would exploit those kind of peace loving people. What monsters they would be who would overpower such just and innocent bunch.

Oh wait, anyone could and would just they have throughout history.

What this has to do w/ global warming, not exactly sure, but unless I tie it to global warming, no body cares.

Jason said...

Agenda, maybe, but it is a valid argument nonetheless. The growth in meat consumption and production and the perceived increase temperature can be related. They have both risen over the last 50 years. Isn’t that how a theory is built? You see two typically unrelated events trending in the same direction and assume there must be a connection. The point is that these two are not that unrelated. Plainly put methane is contributing to the climate changes, and if something needs to be done then a decrease is meat production would reduce the amount of methane production.

Landfills also produce methane and that is why we are consistently told to recycle. However, the amount methane produced by livestock and the amount produced by landfills are drastically different. Why are not told to cut back on red meat? I’ve heard it said that you should cut back on paper napkins, dryer sheets, etc, and everyone nods, but what would happen if everyone ate one veggie burger a day for a year instead of that hamburger or steak or whatever?

Again personal agenda, yes, but I don’t think it is all that irresponsible. I didn’t come out and say that you should be a vegetarian because meat is murder, or because America is the most overweight country is the world, or because I know what is right for you and you should listen to me. I think I made a very rational and logical argument.

This is starting to receive more press, here is an article from USA Today last week:

Dan said...

I'll give you that it's a theory. So, if methane is a contributor, how big a contributor? How big is the meat production and cattle fermentation affect on the methane in the atmosphere. On the sidebar I posted a chart on the most up to date data there is on methane and the breakdown per known influencers. There are many charts that will show you the breakdown of human caused methane and natural methane, but I could not find an English version to one that had both.

As you can see (hopefully), Ruminant animals (meat production, cattle, etc.) is known to be around 93 millions of tonnes of methane gas, with the range of estimates between 80-115 million tonnes.

That's a lot!! But rice agriculture is 60 (40-100 million tonnes), biomass burning is 52, landfills 50.

The largest contributors is the total wetlands (naturally occuring) at 145 million tonnes (92-237 million tonnes for estimates) and Energy generation @ 95 million tonnes (75-110).

This chart also estimates the known sinks that take away the methane out of the atmosphere and it's estimated that there are more million tonnes going back into the sinks right now then into the atmosphere.

This is confirmed by a recent article by the Guardian from the UK which states at the end of the article, the rate of methane increase has slowed in the last 10 years with no convincing explanation why.,12374,1684378,00.html

Also, this article discusses the fact that normal forestry and plant production creates methane, but that it could be up to 30% of the annual total. (Note that this article states that rice cultivation and animals are 2/3 of the annual methane vs. the chart that shows it around 1/3).

Other surprising findings mentioned in the article...

A recent study in Nature found cutting air pollution could trigger a surge in global warming. Aerosols cool the Earth be reflecting radiation back into space.

In 2003, scientists found that levels of sunlight reaching the earth's surface had dropped by 20% in recent years because of air pollution and bigger, longer-lasting clouds.

So here's my thoughts from this recent research...

If we cut back on meat production and consumption to curb the animal methane and become a vegetarian, we'd be in the same situation because we would have to increase our agricultural and plant production to feed the many people on the earth. This would also increase the amount of dead plants that we would have to dispose of and put in compose which would also increase methane production.

On a strictly theoretical basis, I don't see how this would help global warming. Especially since it's possible that methane is in a declining state in the atmosphere as noted.

So again, I go back to what does this "new solution" that is getting more an more attention really doing? Convincing people that they need to be vegetarians when it seems that they would do it for no benefit whatsoever. So why bother pushing the idea? Because it would damage a great American industry and hurt the economy.

I know that there are many people throughout the world that want to see the United States economy perish and give us americans "what we deserve," (whoever they are, I'm sure they are out there since the environment is so much more important than the economy) but I don't think they realize that every world currency is based off of the United States dollar and the English pound.

Money is not backed by anything. It's fiat money. It's back by the full faith that the US citizens will work hard and pay back our debt. And the rest of the world is based off of that. If our economy suffers, the world suffers.

Look at the 1930's. Germany plunged into a deeper depression than the US and out came the Nazi regime. Most people are against war, but what do you think would happen if the world economy collapsed? Everyone would be at war fighting for food, water, resources, etc just like World War II. Someone would come out and think they could take out everyone else. That would be a lot worse state of affairs to be in than some environmental issues that with the right intelligence we could solve by creating more economy and industries to fix the problem. That's what's great about the human race. If there's a problem, we solve it. But let's solve it by creating, not destroying as our current mind set is dictating us to do.

Dan said...

That article is at: