I wonder, is this actually right?

So, meat eating causes climate change.

To which, in the comments, the answer was given, that there is x vegetation growing, that’s going to be eaten by something, somewhere, the same amount of methane/CO2 whatever is going to be emitted, so eating the beef doesn’t make any difference.

At one level this fails because of nitrogen. We deliberately add it in order to boost growth and there are emissions from that.

But at the other, larger, scale, what’s is actually wrong with the idea?

Or rather, what will some warmist tell us is wrong with it so that we may examine their logic?

A few occur off the top of the head, that perhaps cows eating it produce more emissions than rabbits, (termites are a major source of emissions themselves I believe).

But even if there are corrections to be made like that this means that it is the marginal emissions of meat eating that must be considered, not total.

So, why isn’t the idea right at heart at least? Vegetation will be eaten/rot (which is only being eaten by bugs etc) and so who eats it and what happens to them doesn’t make a difference.

That is, are there any emissions from meat eating?

I truly don’t know which is why I ask. I’d expect the correct answer to be that there is some difference but that it’s not total emissions at all but marginal. But who knows? And where is it discussed in the literature? It must actually be discussed in the academic literature, so where?

37 comments on “I wonder, is this actually right?

  1. What about human emissions? If humanity coverts to a non-meat diet, will we produce more or less methane, and is this statistically relevant?

    I see cows as doing the heavy lifting of converting low energy foodstuffs to high energy meat. If we have to do that ourselves, then our digestion will need to ramp up to cope.

  2. Interesting. So without those cows, a large portion of plant matter is useless to humans as food. But as others state, bugs will break it down releasing methane anyway.

    Thanks BiS.

  3. And rabbits never got around to evolving a gut long enough to digest grass. So they double the length of it by eating their own shit.
    Maybe the environmentalists think we should emulate the rabbit? The suggestion that they might wish to demonstrate the technique for us seems appropriate.

  4. I get there’s some sort of energy saving from say growing beans, and going straight to human consumption.
    Cows have to spend energy building bones and muscles to stand up. By contrast the weight of fish is self-supporting so there is a logic to fish-farming being a more productive way of getting protein into humans than beef farming.

  5. Don’t waste time listening to the bug-shite doled out by eco-freaks Tim.

    They need to be shut down. Smashed flat enough to slide themselves and their marxist ordure under a door.

    Metaphorically speaking of course.

  6. the same amount of methane/CO2 whatever is going to be emitted, so eating the beef doesn’t make any difference.

    Some animals are more efficient consumers than others. Some produce much more methane than others. That tends to depend on the gut flora. I dimly remember someone who was working on genetically modifying the gut flora of sheep to reduce their Greenhouse gas impact.

    At one level this fails because of nitrogen. We deliberately add it in order to boost growth and there are emissions from that

    Sure and that is where it gets complicated. We add more fertilizer so that the grass sucks more CO2 out of the air so more of that gets turned into beef so more of that is slaughtered and then pan fried so we can turn it into sh!t. The question is what happens to the sh!t. Sometimes it is dumped at sea where, if dumped deep enough, it will remove CO2 from the atmosphere for a long time. Sometimes it is spread out over the ground.

    However all of this requires fossil fuels. So it is complicated.

    I say eat the damn cow. Who cares about gerbil gloaming which is probably not even happening?

  7. Another piece of environmentalist wibble:
    The Amazon rain forest sequestrates carbon.

    Save the rain forest! Save the planet!

    No it doesn’t. The soil underlying the forest is almost sterile. Contains little organic material & few of the minerals plants need. All of those are contained in the forest vegetation & cycled round & round in a closed loop as vegetation grows, gets eaten, rots. It’s carbon neutral.
    Want to sequestrate carbon in the Amazon basin? Chop down the entire forest, Charcoal it, Plough in the charcoal. Add some nutrients & grow crops.
    What the Indians live in the rain forest have been doing for thousands of years. It’s called terra preta. Possibly 10% of the forest is terra preta. The Amazon rain forest isn’t even natural. It’s a built environment. Gardened for crops.

  8. This is all contrary to my understanding of plant growth and edibility. Some plants grab carbon out of the atmosphere much faster than others, some effectively hide it from animals. If you leave an acre of ground untouched for 100 years (at our latitude and rainfall) you’ll get forest. It doesn’t support much animal life (deer browsing on new growth, small animals and birds eating seeds, insects eating leaves etc).

    If you clear forest and plant grass you can raise much more meat more quickly.

    I think this is all about the rate we can turn atmospheric C02 into something edible on a unit of land.

  9. To which, in the comments, the answer was given, that there is x vegetation growing, that’s going to be eaten by something, somewhere, the same amount of methane/CO2 whatever is going to be emitted, so eating the beef doesn’t make any difference.

    It makes a massive difference, Tim. Working class people are eating the beef. In fact they are eating beef every day. Look at their chubby, contented and faces! This is completely intolerable for our caring and Progressive masters and so “the planet must be saved”.

  10. I don’t think there’s much doubt that Gerbil Worming is happening, albeit at a significantly slower rate than predicted by ‘the models’. The question (to which no-one knows the answer) is what proportion is the result of human CO2 emissions, and to what extent the likely effects will be negative. But there’s no need to worry about such things, because ‘the science is settled’, apparently.

  11. The basic reason for them thinking so is that atmospheric methane levels have suddenly spiked 2.5x over the past 300 years, although they admit they can’t quantify exactly why. (Also it has now mysteriously leveled off, again, for reasons unknown.)

    The total global CH4 source is relatively well known but the strength of each source component and their trends are not. As detailed in Section 7.4, the sources are mostly biogenic and include wetlands, rice agriculture, biomass burning and ruminant animals. Methane is also emitted by various industrial sources including fossil fuel mining and distribution. Prather et al. (2001) documented a large range in ‘bottom-up’ estimates for the global source of CH4. New source estimates published since then are documented in Table 7.6. However, as reported by Bergamaschi et al. (2005), national inventories based on ‘bottom-up’ studies can grossly underestimate emissions and ‘top-down’ measurement-based assessments of reported emissions will be required for verification. Keppler et al. (2006) reported the discovery of emissions of CH4 from living vegetation and estimated that this contributed 10 to 30% of the global CH4 source. This work extrapolates limited measurements to a global source and has not yet been confirmed by other laboratories, but lends some support to space-borne observations of CH4 plumes above tropical rainforests reported by Frankenberg et al. (2005). That such a potentially large source of CH4 could have been missed highlights the large uncertainties involved in current ‘bottom-up’ estimates of components of the global source (see Section 7.4).

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-3-2.html

    There’s a table in section 7.4 (linked to from the link above) that shows they do indeed add up the natural sources as well as the anthropogenic in their estimates. But the basic idea is that it depends on the sort of decay – some processes are efficient and turn it all to CO2 (the annual rise/fall with summer/winter is considered neutral). But digestion in the guts of animals is inefficient, only partially digesting it and releasing more methane. And livestock numbers have increased massively with agriculture. (https://xkcd.com/1338/ )

    But estimates of causes are laced with uncertainty, and they say so.

  12. That doesn’t show that methane has spiked. That shows that people who hope that it has spiked can make some sh!t up.

    No more.

  13. “That doesn’t show that methane has spiked. That shows that people who hope that it has spiked can make some sh!t up.”

    Ah, well. Their argument there is referenced “Present atmospheric levels of CH4 are unprecedented in at least the last 650 kyr (Spahni et al., 2005).” (From the IPCC link above)

    Feel free to look up the paper and tell us all what’s wrong with it.

    People who hope it hasn’t spiked can make shit up too! 😉 That’s why we insist on evidence.

  14. NiV – “Ah, well. Their argument there is referenced “Present atmospheric levels of CH4 are unprecedented in at least the last 650 kyr (Spahni et al., 2005).” (From the IPCC link above)”

    Great. Good for them. But “extrapolation” is not evidence. To their credit they admit they are guessing.

    “That’s why we insist on evidence.”

    Says the man who thinks that someone with XY genes in every cell of his body and a functioning penis is actually a woman. You keep using that word “we”. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  15. They’re guessing about causes, but the ‘spike’ claim is based on ice core measurements.

    The European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica Dome C ice core enables us to extend existing records of atmospheric methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) back to 650,000 years before the present. A combined record of CH4 measured along the Dome C and the Vostok ice cores demonstrates, within the resolution of our measurements, that preindustrial concentrations over Antarctica have not exceeded 773 ± 15 ppbv (parts per billion by volume) during the past 650,000 years. Before 420,000 years ago, when interglacials were cooler, maximum CH4 concentrations were only about 600 ppbv, similar to lower Holocene values. In contrast, the N2O record shows maximum concentrations of 278 ± 7 ppbv, slightly higher than early Holocene values.

    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/310/5752/1317

    “Says the man who thinks that…”

    Do you really want to start all that again? You never learn, do you?!

  16. CH4 content in Antarctic ice cores.

    Just a thought here. Not much CH4 gets produced in Antarctica. No vegetation. So what you’re actually measuring in ice cores is the amount of CH4 gets to Antarctica from other places on the planet. CH4 is not a particularly stable molecule. It oxidises quite readily to CO2 +H2O. Rate of oxidation is dependant on temperature, sunlight, ozone levels…. All of which can vary So CH4 levels in Antarctic ice aren’t necessarily just telling you about planetary CH4 levels but also rate of CH4 degeneration.

  17. “CH4 is not a particularly stable molecule.”

    True. It has an atmospheric half life of about 9 years. But it can spread quite a long way in a turbulent atmosphere in 9 years…

    And the same is true, of course, for CH4 measurements made in Antarctica today. It should be easy to check.

  18. Last time I looked the CO2 was at least 20% out of balance. That is to say that 20% of the calculated emissions ended up somewhere unknown. No doubt the calculated emissions were pretty wildly wrong anyway.

    And it’s no use saying that things have changed since last I looked: the science was settled even back then, so nowt can have changed, can it?

  19. ’causes climate change’

    Whatever that is.

    “a gas with 25 times more impact on global temperature levels than carbon dioxide”

    Let’s see . . . 25 times 0 equals what?

  20. ” “CH4 is not a particularly stable molecule.”

    True. It has an atmospheric half life of about 9 years. But it can spread quite a long way in a turbulent atmosphere in 9 years…

    And the same is true, of course, for CH4 measurements made in Antarctica today. It should be easy to check.”

    But the proportion of CH4 gets oxidised before it gets trapped in Antarctic ice cores depends on the atmospheric conditions at the time.Temperature, sunlight, ozone levels etc And how do we know atmospheric conditions prevailing at the time? Not having meteorological records from 600,000BC. Oh right! Antarctic ice cores. In other words it’s all modelling & assumptions, isn’t it?

  21. @BiS. Ah but it’s their *expert* judgement what assumptions are made so that’s as good as a fact for the purpose of spending $tn on the great project.

  22. All plant growth won’t be eaten anyway. Take a hike through an area where there is game; deer, zebras, kangaroos or whatever. Except in extraordinary circumstances there is often plenty of plant life despite all the critters running around. Livestock will overgraze an area, but that is often because of poor management practices.

  23. 1.3 billion Africans cause climate change (and the destruction of all the beautiful species of that continent). And it’s only getting worse.

    Well past time to solve this problem.

  24. The basic reason for them thinking so is that atmospheric methane levels have suddenly spiked 2.5x over the past 300 years, although they admit they can’t quantify exactly why.

    What was the level in the 300 years before that, or even ten thousand years? Is 1717 a trough in their graph and hence a terrible point of reference? How can levels ‘spike’ over a 300 year period when the first century would have had almost no activity, and the final century outweiging the second by many orders of magnitude with regard to industrialisation?

  25. Rob,

    I know you know, this but they love to start from the Maunder Minimum rather than the Medieval Warm Period.

  26. I’m sure that humans have had some effect on climate. It would be pretty remarkable if we hadn’t. Basic arithmetic says that if cattle emissions are 15% of anthropogenic emissions, and anthropogenic emissions are 1% of all CO2 emissions, then why all the sturm und drang about 0.15% of emissions?

  27. “What was the level in the 300 years before that, or even ten thousand years? Is 1717 a trough in their graph and hence a terrible point of reference? How can levels ‘spike’ over a 300 year period when the first century would have had almost no activity, and the final century outweiging the second by many orders of magnitude with regard to industrialisation?”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane#/media/File:Atmospheric_Concentrations_of_Methane_Over_Time.png

  28. Why are the GW Alarmists and Greens not campaigning about Bali’s CO2 emissions?

    Bali is emitting more CO2 (iirc) per day than all the world’s cars, planes and ships do per year.

    Is it because Bali is not Western White?

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