Government Corruption On Nutrition And Climate

Aesop quote.jpg
Unfortunately, corruption is widespread in government agencies and public enterprises
— Georgios A. Papandreou

In response to a petition by concerned citizens, the Government of Canada stated:

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National GHG Inventory, enteric methane emissions from cattle accounts for 3.5 percent of the total emissions in Canada, the carbon footprint of Canadian beef is one of the smallest in the world. In comparison, the transportation sector contributed 28 percent of the total emissions in Canada. Total GHG emissions from agriculture have been relatively stable over the last 10 years, even as the sector has grown. As published in Canada’s 2018 National Inventory Report, agriculture’s total GHG emissions in 2016 were 60 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalents, representing 8.4 percent of Canada’s total GHG emissions. Of these emissions, animal production accounted for approximately half of them, while the other half of emissions are from crop production.

Is this true? If animal production is less than 5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, what’s all the fuss about meat and dairy consumption?

In a recent article, George Monbiot cites,

"The official carbon footprint of people in the UK is 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year. But in addition to this, the Nature paper estimates that the total greenhouse gas cost – in terms of lost opportunities for storing carbon that the land would offer were it not being farmed – of an average northern European diet is 9 tonnes a year. In other words, if we counted the “carbon opportunity costs” of our diet, our total footprint would almost triple, to 14.4 tonnes.

Why is this figure so high? Because we eat so much meat and dairy. The Nature paper estimates that the carbon cost of chicken is six times higher than soya, while milk is 15 times higher and beef 73 times. One kilo of beef protein has a carbon opportunity cost of 1,250kg: that, incredibly, is roughly equal to driving a new car for a year, or to one passenger flying from London to New York and back.
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Who is right? The Government sources cited above or the Nature scientists cited by George Monbiot?

Let’s take a look at nutrition for reference: Government sources promote the consumption of meat and dairy in our daily diet. We are getting cancer, diabetes and heart disease as a result, which is good business for the pharmaceutical industries. Clearly, when it comes to nutrition, Government sources are corrupt as money has plugged their ears to truth and science. Please watch What The Health for more details.

Will such Government sources tell the truth on greenhouse gas emissions related to animal agriculture? When money plugs ears, does it discriminate on the basis of nutrition vs climate? Let’s examine the chronological evidence:

2005 - Alan Calverd publishes estimate of GHG from “Livestock” breathing alone is 8.8 Gt CO2e or 21% of total (Physics World).
2006 – UN FAO publishes Livestock’s Long Shadow (LLS) calculating GHG emissions from “Livestock” sector is 7.5 Gt CO2e or 18% of total.
2009 – Goodland/Anhang publish WorldWatch report correcting errors in LLS and calculating GHG emissions from “Livestock” sector to be at least 32.6 Gt CO2e or 51% of total.
2011 – FAO scientists publish critique of Goodland/Anhang’s estimate in Animal Feed Science and Technology (AFST) Journal.
2012 – Goodland/Anhang publish refutation in AFST Journal and reiterate their 51% estimate. FAO scientists decline to continue the debate despite Editor’s invitation.
2013 – UN FAO partners with International Meat Secretariat and the International Dairy Federation and publishes revision to LLS, calculating GHG emissions from “Livestock” sector to be 7.1 Gt CO2e or 14.5% of total, without addressing any of the errors pointed out in Goodland/Anhang (2009).

Goodland and Anhang calculated the CO2e emissions from the Animal Agriculture industry to be at least 21.1 Gt CO2e, using a 20-year time frame for methane emissions and correcting for several errors in the UN FAO calculations from 2006. The UN FAO contends that the CO2e emissions from the Animal Agriculture industry is 7.1 Gt CO2e, using a 100-year time frame for methane emissions, while assuming that the efficiency of the animal agriculture industry globally is on par with the efficiency obtained in Minnesota, among other such gross miscalculations.

Goodland and Anhang calculated that the CO2 sequestration that will result if the animal agriculture industry is replaced by plant-based sources is at least 11.5 Gt CO2e. The UN FAO calculated this CO2 sequestration to be a big fat ZERO.

I respectfully submit that the UN FAO is dead wrong on these calculations. At this point, the Nature paper has provided scientific evidence that even Goodland/Anhang's estimate of 51% is on the low side as they may have substantially under counted the negative CO2 emissions (i.e., "carbon opportunity cost") that will result if the whole world goes Vegan.

Perhaps the UN FAO’s gross miscalculations may have something to do with its public partnership with the International Meat Secretariat and the International Dairy Federation? Perhaps, money does plug ears equally regardless of whether we are dealing with nutrition or climate, both globally and in Canada. Please watch Cowspiracy for more details.

At the moment, with the Amazon burning up and Siberia ablaze, I feel a sense of extreme urgency on the transformative actions we need to take as a species. I'm afraid that gradualism is not enough and that unless the completely unnecessary animal agriculture industry shrinks in its entirety, land will not be freed up to stem biodiversity loss and for climate mitigation.

Please ignore the corrupt government agencies. Please Go Vegan NOW!

Sailesh Rao

Dr. Sailesh Rao is an Electrical Engineer, systems specialist, Climate Healer, author of "Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies" and "Carbon Yoga: The Vegan Metamorphosis", and Executive Producer of "The Human Experiment", "Cowspiracy," "What The Health” and “A Prayer for Compassion.