Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Meat and Climate Change - The Topic that Rots (many) Vegans Brains

Mostly off-topic but funny.

Yesterday, I saw someone who should know better advocating for Cowspiracy's embarrassing "animal ag causes 51% of global warming." <sigh>

Back when this originally came out, a scientist in the UK did a kind but thorough dismantling of this absurd claim. Sadly, I can't find this article any longer. So I will do a quick summary.

This ridiculous 51% claim is based on carbon dioxide being exhaled by chickens, pigs, etc. But anyone with middle-school science knows that exhaled carbon dioxide is just part of the current carbon cycle. The carbon coming out of the animal's mouth came from carbon going into their mouth, which came from plants pulling it out of the atmosphere, which came from other mouths, etc.

A cycle. The carbon cycle.

Animals are not creating any more carbon. Saying their breath is causing global warming is like saying their pee is causing sea level rise.

There are two ways to increase the greenhouse effect. One is to add new* carbon to the carbon cycle. That is what we're doing by digging up fossil fuels and burning them.

The other is to produce more potent greenhouse gasses. That is what we do when we manufacture and release nitrous oxides. Ruminants also do this by taking carbon in food and, instead of turning it back into carbon dioxide, create methane. 

I understand that there is a subset of vegans who have built an industry around defending this and other crazy vegan claims. You can go down that rabbit hole, just like the antivax rabbit hole, the 9/11 truther rabbit hole, the election-theft rabbit hole, etc.** There are smart, educated, earnest people who are believers of each of these conspiracy theories, with all their "irrefutable facts."***

Parroting conspiracy theories only hurts real efforts to change the world. It makes it even easier for everyone else to dismiss all vegans entirely. Please, please stop.

In this case, reality is enough. That animal ag causes more climate change globally than the entire transportation industry**** is both shocking and defensible. Please stick with that if you want to be taken seriously. Thanks!

*It technically isn't all new carbon -- it is carbon that was once in the atmosphere and was buried as coal, oil, etc.

**A reminder to new readers that I was a Department of Energy Global Change Fellow for five years while earning a Masters in Engineering and Public Policy and working on a PhD.

***There are also people who can "prove" that regenerative animal ag is the cure for climate change, even though in reality, regenerative ag is a joke.

****The defensible comparison between animal ag and transportation has its own problems, but can at least be documented at a first-order level (e.g., 14.5% for animal ag, 14% for transportation). 

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