Livestock Causes 18 Percent of Global Greenhouse Emissions
Here's another reason to go vegetarian or cut back on your meat consumption:
The growth of factory farms, their proximity to congested cities in the developing world, and the globalized poultry trade are all culprits behind the spread of avian flu, while livestock wastes damage the climate at a rate that surpasses emissions from cars and SUVs. These preliminary findings on avian flu and meat production, from the upcoming Worldwatch Institute report Vital Signs 2007–2008, were released today by research associate Danielle Nierenberg at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.
At least 15 nations have restricted or banned free-range and backyard production of birds in an attempt to deal with avian flu on the ground, a move that may ultimately do more harm than good, according to Nierenberg. “Many of the world’s estimated 800 million urban farmers, who raise crops and animals for food, transportation, and income in back yards and on rooftops, have been targeted unfairly by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization,” she told participants at the AAAS event. “The socioeconomic importance of livestock to the world’s poor cannot be overstated.”
In 2006, global meat production increased 2.5 percent to an estimated 276 million tons. Sixty percent of this production occurred in the developing world, where half of all meat is now consumed thanks to rising incomes and exploding urbanization.
Intensive animal farming is not only deleterious to human health and economies; it is also responsible for a great deal of ecological destruction. The growing numbers of livestock are responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent). They account for 37 percent of emissions of methane, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and 65 percent of emissions of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, most of which comes from manure.