Less Meat Means Less Heat – Or Does It?

AUSTRALIA - The Australian Farm Institute are questioning whether, 'less meat means less heat' – even if official greenhouse emission inventories might be positively changed if less cattle and sheep are produced.
calendar icon 31 October 2007
clock icon 1 minute read

The view that by reducing ruminant livestock production, global greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, ignores the complexity of greenhouse emission accounting rules and the fact that what is counted as emissions may not necessarily reflect the realities of the carbon cycle.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol to that Convention, there are a range of greenhouse accounting rules and guidelines that dictate what is and what is not counted. In combination, these rules mean that emissions from ruminant livestock appear to be quite prominent in the greenhouse inventories of nations such as Australia (11% of net national emissions), because most greenhouse gas removals from the atmosphere by agriculture are not counted.

Furthermore, whether less meat means less greenhouse emissions depends on what might happen if meat production is reduced. While measured greenhouse emissions arising from the cropping system might be less, it is unclear whether the actual net greenhouse emissions arising from the farm systems might be all that different in the longer term, especially if the switch to greater plant consumption by humans meant that the area of croplands had to expand.

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