Originally published in the Bakersfield Californian by Will Coggin on March 2, 2019:
The Green New Deal recently introduced in Congress signals a new political focus on climate change. A document accompanying the proposal singled out several areas due for radical upheaval over the next 10 years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of them, oddly, was cows.
The idea that livestock are contributing to global warming in a significant way dates to a decade-old United Nations report claiming that animal agriculture was responsible for as much global emissions as transportation. It’s time to clear the air: cows (and pigs and chickens) are not a climate threat.
The notion that livestock emissions should even be a target of Green New Deal is questionable, as livestock accounts for only 5 percent of global emissions, and 3.3 percent in the U.S. Beef in particular has reduced emissions per pound of meat produced by about 10 percent since the 1970s.
The U.S. agriculture sector as a whole has also dropped its output of emissions by nearly a third of what it was 10 years ago. The addition of more bureaucratic regulation is unnecessary and would likely hinder the progress that has been made.
America is making great strides to reduce emissions. In fact, since 2005 Americans have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 760 million metric tons. That same study also found that the United States is second in its overall use of renewable energy. The United States was ranked in the top 15 percent of countries in a recent report measuring environmental sustainability.
The focus should be how to best help developing nations, which account for 63 percent of carbon emissions. According to the World Energy Outlook, industrialized nations are expected to continue to decrease greenhouse gas emissions while developing nations are expected to nearly double their output.