UN report that linked meat-eating with climate change flawed

Last Updated: Thursday, March 25, 2010 - 11:19

London: The UN has admitted that a 2006 report concluding that livestock farming is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions was "flawed" and exaggerated the impact of eating meat on climate change.

The report `Livestock`s Long Shadow` were heralded by campaigners urging consumers to eat less meat to save the planet.

Leading figures in the climate change establishment, such as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chairman Rajendra Pachauri and Lord (Nicholas) Stern, have also quoted the 18 percent figure as a reason why people should consider eating less meat.

But a new analysis, presented at a US science meeting, said linking of livestock production to 18 percent of carbon emission, more than transport, was "flawed", the BBC reported.

Frank Mitloehner from the University of California at Davis (UCD) said curbing meat production and consumption would infact be less beneficial for the climate than has been claimed.

"Smarter animal farming, not less farming, will equal less heat," he told delegates at the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in San Francisco.

"Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries."

He pointed out that the report, published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), reached the 18 percent by totting up all greenhouse-gas emissions associated with meat production from farm to table, including fertilizer production, land clearance, methane emissions from the animals` digestion, and vehicle use on farms.

But the authors had not calculated transport emissions in the same way, instead just using the IPCC`s figure, which only included fossil fuel burning, Mitloehner said.

"This lopsided `analysis` is a classical apples-and-oranges analogy that truly confused the issue," he said.

Meanwhile, one of the authors of Livestock`s Long Shadow, FAO livestock policy officer Pierre Gerber, told BBC News that he accepted Mitloehner`s criticism.

"I must say honestly that he has a point - we factored in everything for meat emissions, and we didn`t do the same thing with transport," he said.

"But on the rest of the report, I don`t think it was really challenged."

FAO is now working on a much more comprehensive analysis of emissions from food production, he said, adding that it would be completed by the end of the year.


First Published: Thursday, March 25, 2010 - 11:19

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