Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can good land use mitigate climate change?

I just finished a new report from World Watch entitled Mitigating Climate Change Through Food and Land Use. It currently costs $12.95 to download, but I think its worth a read.

My interest was peaked with the discussion of how soil stores carbon. Improving land use is not a solution to greenhouse gases, but it does offer a reasonable short-term option, which is something the world desperately needs right now.

I was most interested in "climate-friendly livestock production", something I have argued against before. I wasn't sure what to expect from the report. Has a magic bullet for animal raising been found?

No. The answer, as always, is that "serious action on climate change will almost certainly require reductions in the global consumption of meat and dairy by today’s major consumers in industrial countries, as well as slowing the growth of demand in developing countries." Nutrient supplements, changes to feed, better manure management and even adding bacteria to the stomachs of cows all have some potential, but they only work on large farms, and they don't decrease the impact of animals by enough to justify the large quantities people in America eat.

There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly way to raise animals, especially cows. Only a decrease in consumption will have any real effect.

1 comment:

Eliza said...

It would be interesting to learn more about how land use can - at least in the short-term - counter the effects of climate change especially in countries such as Uganda where there is a growing problem of failed crops and malnutrition.
The Guardian Katine project (a joint rural development intiative with NGO Amref) has reported on its website about these issues and while decisive action needs to be taken to buck the trend, more small-scale measures should be encouraged.