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Domestic Livestock and Its Alleged Role in Climate Change


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Abstract It is very old wisdom that climate dictates farm management strategies. In recent years, however, we are increasingly confronted with claims that agriculture, livestock husbandry, and even food consumption habits are forcing the climate to change. We subjected this worrisome concern expressed by public institutions, the media, policy makers, and even scientists to a rigorous review, cross-checking critical coherence and (in)compatibilities within and between published scientific papers. Our key conclusion is there is no need for anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and even less so for livestock-born emissions, to explain climate change. Climate has always been changing, and even the present warming is most likely driven by natural factors. The warming potential of anthropogenic GHG emissions has been exaggerated, and the beneficial impacts of manmade CO2 emissions for nature, agriculture, and global food security have been systematically suppressed, ignored, or at least downplayed by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other UN (United Nations) agencies. Furthermore, we expose important methodological deficiencies in IPCC and FAO (Food Agriculture Organization) instructions and applications for the quantification of the manmade part of non-CO2-GHG emissions from agro-ecosystems. However, so far, these fatal errors inexorably propagated through scientific literature. Finally, we could not find a clear domestic livestock fingerprint, neither in the geographical methane distribution nor in the historical evolution of mean atmospheric methane concentration. In conclusion, everybody is free to choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but there is no scientific basis, whatsoever, for claiming this decision could contribute to save the planet’s climate. Keywords: greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, agroecosystems, deforestation, climate change
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Provisional chapter
Domestic Livestock and Its Alleged Role in Climate
Albrecht Glatzle
Additional information is available at the end of the chapter
© 2016 The Author(s). Licensee InTech. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Additional information is available at the end of the chapter
It is very old wisdom that climate dictates farm management strategies. In recent
years, however, we are increasingly confronted with claims that agriculture, livestock
husbandry, and even food consumption habits are forcing the climate to change. We
subjected this worrisome concern expressed by public institutions, the media, policy
makers, and even scientists to a rigorous review, cross-checking critical coherence and
(in)compatibilities within and between published scientic papers. Our key conclusion
is there is no need for anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and even
less so for livestock-born emissions, to explain climate change. Climate has always been
changing, and even the present warming is most likely driven by natural factors. The
warming potential of anthropogenic GHG emissions has been exaggerated, and the ben-
ecial impacts of manmade CO2 emissions for nature, agriculture, and global food secu-
rity have been systematically suppressed, ignored, or at least downplayed by the IPCC
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other UN (United Nations) agencies.
Furthermore, we expose important methodological deciencies in IPCC and FAO (Food
Agriculture Organization) instructions and applications for the quantication of the
manmade part of non-CO2-GHG emissions from agro-ecosystems. However, so far, these
fatal errors inexorably propagated through scientic literature. Finally, we could not nd
a clear domestic livestock ngerprint, neither in the geographical methane distribution
nor in the historical evolution of mean atmospheric methane concentration. In conclu-
sion, everybody is free to choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but there is no scientic
basis, whatsoever, for claiming this decision could contribute to save the planet’s climate.
Keywords: greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, agro-
ecosystems, deforestation, climate change
© 2018 The Author(s). Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
1. Introduction
Since its early origins, mankind adapts to the prevailing climatic conditions (from the arctic
to the tropical rainforest) and copes fairly successfully with natural climate variability. It is
very old wisdom that climate dictates farm management strategies. Fairly new, however, is
the idea that agriculture, livestock husbandry, and food consumption habits are forcing sup-
posedly the climate to change. This idea spread across the globe when thousands of media
reports picked up the central message of the famous FAO report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”
[1], which blamed domestic livestock of causing serious environmental hazards such as cli-
mate change, through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Another FAO report [2] basically
transmied the same message, reducing, however, somewhat the livestock contribution to
global GHG emissions from 18 to 14.5%. But dramatic gures of emission intensity were still
maintained particularly for South American pasture-based beef production (Figure 1).
The worrisome messages launched by the FAO were eagerly disseminated by several envi-
ronmentalist and even ecclesiastic organizations. They also triggered political action: there
was a public audience in the European Parliament in November 2009 about the topic “Less
Meat = Less Heat.” And at the Conference of Partners in Paris COP21 in 2015, this topic was
also subject in the climate negotiations. And even in scientic literature, reduction of livestock
numbers and meat consumption was recommended [3]. These concerns expressed by public
institutions, the media, politics, and even science evoke the question: is global climate really
at risk from livestock husbandry and cropping?
Figure 1. Key conclusions from Gerber et al. [2].
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2. Methodological procedure
To answer this question, we did extensive review work, cross-checking critically coherence and
(in)compatibilities between several published papers and data, and came to distinct results to
what one would expect when listening to environmentalists and political climate change activists.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. About GHG emissions in the context of livestock husbandry
3.1.1. Carbon dioxide (CO2)
CO2 emied by human consumption of cereals, meat, and milk, by livestock respiration and
forage digestion, does not increase atmospheric CO2 levels, as this is part of the natural carbon
cycle. Not a single human- or livestock-born CO2 molecule is additionally released into the
atmosphere, as it has previously been captured through photosynthesis. The amount of CO2
released annually by humans and livestock is oset by regrowing CO2-assimilating forages
and crops. The only sources of additional CO2 emissions caused by agriculture and livestock
husbandry, beyond the natural carbon cycle, are:
fossil fuel consumption during production, processing, and marketing, such as transporta-
tion, soil tillage, harvesting, and fertilizer manufacturing,
• deforestation for reclamation of pasture and cropland, and
soil organic maer decomposition from degrading grasslands and arable lands, as deter-
mined by the dierence of ecosystemic carbon stocks before and after certain human
Usage of fossil fuels is considerable in industrial livestock production systems which rely on
forage cropping and feed transportation to the conned animals. In grazing systems, how-
ever, fuel consumption is rather low. Fossil fuel-related emission intensity of feed is less than
0.05 CO2 kg1 of dry maer intake in grazing systems and around 0.3 in feedlots [4]. The
widespread perception that only feedlot intensication can reduce the overall GHG emission
intensity (per kg of beef produced) was recently challenged by Paige et al. [5] who found
considerable soil organic carbon sequestration in certain grazing systems which even oset
methane emissions from enteric fermentation. However, after any sort of land use change, the
rate of soil carbon sequestration or of carbon loss is changing over time until a new equilib-
rium level is reached for each kind of land management [6].
Deforestation for pasture establishment causes a unique one-time CO2 release from burning
and decomposition of woody vegetation. For emission intensity calculations, deforestation-
born emissions have to be shared out over the accumulated animal products generated dur-
ing the total utilization period of the very pasture, which replaced the forest. This may easily
Domestic Livestock and Its Alleged Role in Climate Change 3
be hundreds of years (as in the case of European grasslands). In the long run, total production
accumulates to huge quantities and the deforestation part of the emission intensity (CO2 emit-
ted per kg of carcass weight) approaches zero (Figure 2).
Unfortunately, in published literature, emissions from deforestation are treated inconsis-
tently. They are either neglected or charged entirely to the year of their appearance onto a
product which is not necessarily related to the ongoing deforestation, such as total beef pro-
duction in South America (e.g., Figure 1). For Europe, however, these emissions are usually
ignored as they took place 500 years and longer ago.
In spite of ongoing deforestation, world vegetation cover, particularly in (semi-)arid regions,
has improved in the past 30 years due to rising CO2, as a satellite image-based analysis by
CSIRO Australia [7] and Geoscience Institutes in Denmark and Spain [8] has shown. Another
study of 32 authors from 24 institutions from 8 countries, published on the NASA website,
found a signicant increase in the leaf area index on most of the earth’s vegetated surface,
during the past 35 years, for which increasing CO2 emissions are considered responsible at a
70% level [9, 10].
In the Northern Hemisphere with big landmasses covered with vegetation, the annual oscil-
lation of CO2 rose considerably in the past decades. In 2013, 36% more CO2 was captured in
spring and summer and released again in wintertime than 45 years ago. The growing annual
amplitude with more CO2 in the air is a clear indicator of a tremendous vegetation response to
increased CO2 levels [11]. Fully in line with this nding is another paper published in Nature
providing evidence that twentieth-century CO2 emissions caused an over 30% increase in
Global Terrestrial Gross Primary Production [12].
Figure 2. Modeling deforestation-born emission intensity (kg CO2 emied per kg of carcass weight produced).
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Former IPCC author and reviewer Indur Goklany [13] estimated the global fertilization value
of manmade CO2 in the atmosphere to 140 billion US$ every year. Therefore, anthropogenic
CO2 contributes considerably to global food security. There are dozens of studies corroborating
the eciency of CO2 as a fertilizer of our crops, pastures, and forests [14]. Nevertheless, UNEP
projects (United Nations Environmental Program) such as the initiative TEEB (The Economy
of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food) categorically ignore the obvious
benecial eects of manmade CO2 emissions in their economic assessments. So do the authors
of a recent assessment of potential economic damages under UN mitigation targets [15]. The
well-established desirable eects of manmade CO2 are entirely disregarded, whereas the global
warming thresholds of future emission scenarios, as proposed by the IPCC, are fully accepted
and related to potential economic losses, dierentiated by regions. However, this widely
accepted approach does not represent an objective and trustworthy method (see Chapter 3.2).
During most of the geological eras, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than today. At
the last glaciation maximum, however, 18,000 years ago, CO2 concentration reached as lile as
180 ppm, low enough to stunt plant growth [16]. Therefore, quite a number of authors celebrate
the recirculation of CO2 by fossil fuel burning to secure long-time survival of life on earth. Taking
into account that CO2 is essential nutrient for life, is the only carbon source of all biomass, is
fertilizing our crops and pastures, and is greening our deserts as it improves water use eciency
and therefore drought resistance of plants [17], this trace compound in the air (0.04% vol.) quali-
es for being the most important, however limiting, nutrient for life. It is not the air pollutant as
which it is seemingly exposed in the media and even by members of the scientic community.
CO2 is a transparent and odorless trace gas of which we are respiring about 5 kg every day.
3.1.2. Non-CO2 GHGs: methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)
Other agricultural GHGs such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) also form part of
natural cycles, just like CO2. An easily understandable overview on methane and nitrous oxide
dynamics in the atmosphere has been worked out by Stephen Zwick in LA Chefs Column
[18]. There are natural and manmade sinks and sources for CH4 and N2O (Figure 3); there is,
however, some confusion in the quantication of the manmade part of their emissions from
agro-ecosystems. The IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories [19] meticu-
lously provide instructions, emission factors, and formulas to estimate the emissions from
the various sources in managed ecosystems. Emissions from pristine or native ecosystems
are explicitly not taken into account, as they are not manmade. However, all managed agro-
ecosystems replaced native ecosystems at some stage in history which also had been sources
of considerable methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
In order to get the eective manmade part of the emissions from managed ecosystems, one has to
subtract the baseline emissions of the respective native ecosystems or of the pre-climate change-
managed ecosystems from those of today’s agro-ecosystems (Figure 4). Omiing this correction
leads to a systematic overestimation of farm-born non-CO2 GHG emissions. Scientic publica-
tions generally do not take this consideration into account, as farm-born CH4 and N2O emissions
are consistently interpreted at a 100% level as an additional anthropogenic GHG source, just like
fossil fuel-born CO2. As the mentioned IPCC guidelines [19] are taken for the ultimate reference,
this severe methodological deciency propagated through scientic literature.
Domestic Livestock and Its Alleged Role in Climate Change 5
Figure 3. Natural and anthropogenic sources and sinks of the non-CO2 GHGs methane and nitrous oxide.
Figure 4. How to estimate correctly manmade non-CO2 GHG emissions from agro-ecosystems.
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Temporarily waterlogged or ooded pristine ecosystems or those with a high density of wild
ungulates might have emied the same amount or even more methane per hectare and year
than they did after land reclamation and utilization. So net anthropogenic methane emissions
from certain agro-ecosystems could be zero or even assume a negative value.
The same applies to nitrous oxide, particularly in farming systems where no or lile synthetic
nitrogen fertilizer is used such as most pastoral systems: ecosystem management and herbage
consumption by livestock might increase somewhat the turnover rate of nitrogen but does
not increase the quantity of nitrogen in circulation from which N2O is emied as a by-product
from nitrication and denitrication.
Dung patches concentrate the nitrogen ingested from places scaered across the pasture.
Nichols et al. [20] found no signicant dierences between emission factors from the patches
and the rest of the pasture, which means the same amount of nitrous oxide is emied whether
or not the herbage passes livestock’s intestines. However, the IPCC and FAO do consider
mistakenly all nitrous oxide leaking from manure as livestock-born and therefore manmade.
Comparing, for instance, sown grassland with native bushland in the Gran Chaco, which con-
tains many leguminous species, it becomes evident that nitrogen stocks are higher and more
nitrogen is circulated annually in native bushland than in sown pasture (Figure 5). Therefore,
in spite of the presence of grazing animals in the grassland, there is likely more nitrous oxide
produced from bushland than from grassland after bush clearing and pasture establishment.
Figure 5. Ecosystemic nitrogen stocks in grassland and bushland (Chaco, Paraguay).
Domestic Livestock and Its Alleged Role in Climate Change 7
Hence, instead of charging the emission intensity of South American Beef with 23 kg of CO2-
equ. kg1 of CW (carcass weight) for nitrous oxide emissions from animal feces (Figure 1),
there should rather be a negative value when corrected for the emissions from the respective
pre-land use pristine ecosystem. Similar thoughts can be made for the enteric fermentation
and deforestation part of emission intensity charges.
3.1.3. Global methane emissions and livestock
The rise of methane emissions beginning around 1850 coincides perfectly with the progres-
sive use of fossil energy. But the methane growth rate fell to zero at the turn of the millennium
as shown by Quirk [21], cited from [22]. The stabilization of methane emissions in the 1990s is
very likely associated with the adoption of modern technology in fossil fuel production and
use, particularly the replacement of leaking pipelines in the former Soviet Union [21].
Between 1990 and 2005, the world cale population rose by more than 100 million head
(according to FAO statistics). During this time, atmospheric methane concentration stabilized
completely. These empirical observations show that livestock is not a signicant player in
the global methane budget [23]. This appreciation has been corroborated by Schwieke et al.
[24] who suggested that methane emissions from fossil fuel industry and natural geological
seepage have been 60–110% greater than previously thought.
When looking to the global distribution of average methane concentrations as measured by
ENVISAT (Environmental Satellite) [25] and the geographical distribution of domestic animal
density, respectively [1], no discernible relationship between both criteria was found [22].
Although the most recent estimates of yearly livestock-born global methane emissions came
out 11% higher than earlier estimates [26], we still cannot see any discernible livestock n-
gerprint in the global methane distribution (Figure 6). The idea of a considerable livestock
contribution to the global methane budget relies on theoretical boom-up calculations. Even
in recent studies, e.g., [27], just the emissions per animal are measured and multiplied by the
number of animals. Ecosystemic interactions and baselines over time and space are gener-
ally ignored [28]. Although quite a number of publications, such as the excellent most recent
FCRN report (Food Climate Research Network) [29], do discuss extensively ecosystemic
sequestration potentials and natural sources of GHGs, they do not account for baseline emis-
sions from the respective native ecosystems when assessing manmade emissions of non-CO2
GHGs from managed ecosystems. This implies a systematic overestimation of the warming
potential, particularly when assuming considerable climate sensitivity to GHG emissions.
However, even LA Chefs Column [18], in spite of assuming a major global warming impact of
methane, came to the conclusion: “When methane is put into a broader rather than a reductive
context, we all have to stop blaming cale (‘cows’) for climate change.”
3.2. About the climate response to manmade GHG emissions
Having shown considerable benecial eects of manmade CO2 emissions on nature, agricul-
ture, and global food security and having shown severe IPCC and FAO deciencies in the
quantication of the manmade part of non-CO2 GHG emissions, we need to have a closer look
to the alleged evil human emissions of natural GHGs are accused of: causing climate change
through global warming.
Forage Groups8
Domestic Livestock and Its Alleged Role in Climate Change 9
University [37] recovered ancient tree trunks conserved in moors and glaciers well above the
present day tree lines, all across the Alps (Figure 8).
Paelt irrefutably concluded that 65% of the Holocene summer temperatures had been
warmer than today because the tree lines were at higher altitudes than today. Other studies
Figure 8. These tree trunks uncovered from retreating glaciers are irrefutable witnesses of extended preindustrial warm
periods as they grew up well above the present-day tree lines [38].
Figure 7. Midtropospheric temperature variations: observations (by satellite and balloons) versus IPCC models [31].
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from stalagmites in the Alps [39] and tree line investigations in Lapland [40] gave similar
results, just as did ice core analyses from Greenland [41] and from the Antarctica [42].
The IPCC faces considerable problems of explaining the numerous preindustrial warm peri-
ods: among the radiative forcing components as published in the latest IPCC report in 2013
[43], anthropogenic CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions are represented with promi-
nent bars and hence are supposed to be the key drivers of global warming. On the other hand,
the solar inuence has been reduced to a tiny eect, just representing the observed small
variation of direct solar irradiation (Figure 9).
Figure 9. Natural and anthropogenic global warming forcing agents as dened and quantied by the IPCC (Figures 8-17
from [43]). These are incompatible with the well-documented prominent warm periods, which occurred in spite of
preindustrial CO2 levels.
Domestic Livestock and Its Alleged Role in Climate Change 11
These global warming forcing agents dened by the IPCC [43] obviously ignore the potent indi-
rect solar inuences produced by solar magnetic activity associated with sunspot occurrence.
Lockwood et al. [44] clearly showed the relevance of solar activity indicators for the heliospheric
cosmic ray modulation potential and the associated cooling and warming of the earth during
the past 400 years. The causal chain between solar magnetic activity, cosmic ray ux hiing the
earth, cloud formation potential, and mean global temperature has been shown by Svensmark
and Friis-Christensen [45] and was convincingly defended against premature critics [46].
4. Conclusion
There is no need for anthropogenic emissions of GHGs, and even less so for livestock-born
emissions, to explain climate change. When looking closely to published scientic data and
facts, we conclude that
• eternal climate change, also the present one, is most likely driven by natural factors,
the warming potential of anthropogenic GHGs has very likely been exaggerated by the
IPCC and the media, and
benecial impacts of anthropogenic CO2 emissions for nature, agriculture, and global food
security have been systematically ignored.
Furthermore, we exposed important methodological deciencies in IPCC and FAO instruc-
tions and applications for the quantication of the manmade part of non-CO2 GHG emissions
from agro-ecosystems. Finally, we could not nd a domestic livestock ngerprint, neither
in the geographical methane distribution nor in the historical evolution of the atmospheric
methane concentration.
Consequently, in science, politics, and the media, climate impact of anthropogenic GHG
emissions has been systematically overstated. Livestock-born GHG emissions have mostly
been interpreted isolated from their ecosystemic context, ignoring their negligible signicance
within the global balance. There is no scientic evidence, whatsoever, that domestic livestock
could represent a risk for the Earth’s climate.
The author wants to thank Prof. Emeritus Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner, Stockholm University, for
inspiring ideas, stimulating conversations, and providing with relevant references.
Conict of interest
The author has no conict of interest to declare.
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Author details
Albrecht Glale
Address all correspondence to: albrecht.gla
INTTAS (Initiative for Research and Extension of Sustainable Agrarian Technologies),
Filadela, Paraguay
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Forage Groups16
... Some acknowledge livestock's large impact on the environment, while advocate for further intensification of livestock production to reduce the sectors emissions (Gerber et al., 2013a;Steinfeld et al., 2006a). Others argue current estimates are overblown (Glatzle, 2014(Glatzle, , 2018) while a growing number advocate for a reduction in the consumption of livestock products as the only way forward (Goodland and Anhang, 2009; Marinova and Bogueva, 2019; Poore and Nemecek, 2018; Rust et al., 2020). However, given the large disparities in estimates, we believe there is a need to look again at livestock's contribution to global GHG emissions using the most up to date data (at the time of writing) on a range of inputs including global livestock populations, feed resource use, land degradation and global warming potentials for GHG. ...
... Despite advocating for increasing the intensity of livestock production systems, Livestock's Long Shadow at least highlighted many of the other negative effects caused by global livestock production. However, the findings of Steinfeld et al. (2006a) have been largely ignored by national agriculture agencies (Bristow, 2011) and criticised by pro-livestock groups (Maday, 2019;Nason, 2017; The Cattlemen's Beef Board, 2019) and academics (Glatzle, 2014(Glatzle, , 2018Mitloehner, 2018) with the most strident critics calling for the FAO to stick to their mandate of promoting food production (Glatzle, 2014). ...
Technical Report
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Executive Summary 1. Livestock are raised in 208 countries around the world for human consumption. This sector provides meat-based protein, milk and supply raw material for other industrial products. It is estimated that globally between 600 million (Thornton et al., 2002; Thornton et al., 2009) and 1.3 billion (The World Bank, 2020; van de Steeg et al., 2009) people are dependent on livestock for their livelihood. Livestock contributes only 1.5 percent to the global economy. 2. Livestock production occupies up to 75 percent of global agricultural land (Foley et al., 2011) and up to 45 percent of the land surface of the planet (Ritchie and Roser, 2013). Livestock farming consumes 30 percent of agricultural freshwater (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2012; Ran et al., 2017), 58 percent of the economically appropriated plant biomass and farmed animals have come to dominate the biosphere with 60 percent of all mammals on the planet being domesticated. 3. From a nutritional and economic perspective, livestock products play a surprisingly small role in our diets and economy. Livestock products provide only 17 percent of average global calorie intake and 30 percent of average global protein intake (Mottet et al., 2017), and livestock now consume more human edible protein than they produce (Steinfeld et al., 2006a). 4. Total number of livestock estimated to be raised in 2018 are 28.6 billion. It includes 1.4 billion cattle, 206 million buffaloes, 1.2 billion sheep, a little over 1 billion goats, 978 million pigs, and 24 billion poultry. 5. Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of six types of livestock (cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry) are estimated to be in the range of 10.7 – 16.9 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) assuming a global warming potential (GWP) for methane of 34 and 86 respectively. 6. This includes enteric fermentation (CH4) between 3.4 – 8.8 Gt CO2e, manure management (CH4) between 343 – 890 Mt CO2e, manure management (N2O) at 119 Mt CO2e, manure grazing (N2O) at 870 Mt CO2e, animal feed (CO2) at 143 Mt CO2e, fertiliser (N2O) at 253 Mt CO2e, fertiliser (CO2) at 291 Mt CO2e, crop residue (N2O) at 77 Mt CO2e, foregone soil carbon sequestration (CO2) at 1.4 Gt CO2e, LUC for pasture expansion (CO2) at 1.8 Gt CO2e, LUC for cropland expansion (CO2) at 141 Mt CO2e, degraded grazing land (CO2) at 244 Mt CO2e, animal respiration (CO2) at 1.86 Gt. 7. Our results show that, total livestock related emissions are in the range of 19.2 – 30.3 percent of the total anthropogenic global emissions from all economic sectors (55.6 Gt in 2018). 8. Our results include estimates for foregone soil carbon sequestration from the land that is used to grow animal feed, land use change (LUC) due to pasture and cropland expansion, degraded grazing land and includes animal respiration, However, we did not include transport, energy and processing related emissions due to lack of publicly available granular data at local to global scale. We assume that our estimates would significantly improve if we include energy, transport and processing related emissions. 9. We also estimated carbon sequestration potential from afforestation of cropland that is currently used to grow animal feed. It ranged from 38 Gt CO2 assuming low biomass estimates to 225 Gt CO2 assuming the highest estimates of biomass accumulation. 10. Further research can help to refine these estimates by using granular data about each stage of livestock value chain 11. While we estimate total GHG emissions attributable to global livestock sector, there are several other environmental, social and health impacts that need further attention by future research, practice and policy.
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International climate change agreements typically specify global warming thresholds as policy targets¹, but the relative economic benefits of achieving these temperature targets remain poorly understood2,3. Uncertainties include the spatial pattern of temperature change, how global and regional economic output will respond to these changes in temperature, and the willingness of societies to trade present for future consumption. Here we combine historical evidence⁴ with national-level climate⁵ and socioeconomic⁶ projections to quantify the economic damages associated with the United Nations (UN) targets of 1.5°C and 2°C global warming, and those associated with current UN national-level mitigation commitments (which together approach 3°C warming⁷). We find that by the end of this century, there is a more than 75% chance that limiting warming to 1.5°C would reduce economic damages relative to 2°C, and a more than 60% chance that the accumulated global benefits will exceed US$20 trillion under a 3% discount rate (2010 US dollars). We also estimate that 71% of countries - representing 90% of the global population - have a more than 75% chance of experiencing reduced economic damages at 1.5°C, with poorer countries benefiting most. Our results could understate the benefits of limiting warming to 1.5°C if unprecedented extreme outcomes, such as large-scale sea level rise⁸, occur for warming of 2°C but not for warming of 1.5°C. Inclusion of other unquantified sources of uncertainty, such as uncertainty in secular growth rates beyond that contained in existing socioeconomic scenarios, could also result in less precise impact estimates. We find considerably greater reductions in global economic output beyond 2°C. Relative to a world that did not warm beyond 2000-2010 levels, we project 15%-25% reductions in per capita output by 2100 for the 2.5-3°C of global warming implied by current national commitments⁷, and reductions of more than 30% for 4°C warming. Our results therefore suggest that achieving the 1.5°C target is likely to reduce aggregate damages and lessen global inequality, and that failing to meet the 2°C target is likely to increase economic damages substantially.
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Extensively raised beef cattle contribute to the highest levels of enteric methane (CH4) gas emissions among all livestock. Expensive techniques and logistics hinder monitoring of such gas. Therefore, the objective of this study was to use an inexpensive laser methane detector (LMD) apparatus to determine the enteric CH4 levels from a herd of beef cows raised on semi-arid rangelands. A total of 24 cows were selected from Boran and Nguni cows (n = 12 per breed) from two different farms. The parities of the cows were as follows: parity 1 (n = 6), parity 2 (n = 6), parity 3 (n = 6) and parity 4 (n = 6). An observer used a hand-held LMD to measure enteric CH4 emissions plumes during the late afternoon hours when the animals were resting (either standing or lying down). Point measurements (expressed in ppm/m) were taken for six consecutive days and repeated once after every three months. The ratio of CH4 output per kilogramme DMI was not different in within-breed and between-breed in both seasons. Generally, the dry season recorded the highest CH4 output per kilogramme of live weight of cow. For example, Boran cows in parity 2 produced the highest output of 1.0 ± 0.04 g CH4 per kilogramme live weight of cow while Nguni cows in parities 1, 2 and 4 each produced 0.9 ± 0.04 g CH4 per kilogramme live weight of cow in the dry season. All the animals maintained optimal body condition scores in both seasons (ranging between the lowest of 3.2 ± 0.01 and the highest of 3.4 ± 0.01). Based on the results of the study, it is concluded that cows from both herds produced higher CH4 per kilogramme live weight of cow in the dry season while maintaining optimal body condition scores in both seasons.
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Recent studies note a significant increase in high-pressure blocking over the Greenland region (Greenland Blocking Index, GBI) in summer since the 1990s. Such a general circulation change, indicated by a negative trend in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, is generally highlighted as a major driver of recent surface melt records observed on the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). Here we compare reanalysis-based GBI records with those from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) suite of global climate models over 1950–2100. We find that the recent summer GBI increase lies well outside the range of modelled past reconstructions (Historical scenario) and future GBI projections (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). The models consistently project a future decrease in GBI (linked to an increase in NAO), which highlights a likely key deficiency of current climate models if the recently-observed circulation changes continue to persist. Given well-established connections between atmospheric pressure over the Greenland region and air temperature and precipitation extremes downstream, e.g. over Northwest Europe, this brings into question the accuracy of simulated North Atlantic jet stream changes and resulting climatological anomalies over densely populated regions of northern Europe as well as of future projections of GrIS mass balance produced using global and regional climate models.
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The present paper reports results from an extensive project aiming at improved understanding of postglacial subalpine/alpine vegetation, treeline, glacier and climate history in the Scandes of northern Sweden. The main methodology is analyses of mega fossil tree remnants, i.e. trunks, roots and cones, recently exposed at the fringe of receding glaciers and snow/ice patches. This approach has a spatial resolution and accuracy, which exceeds any other option for tree cover reconstruction in high-altitude mountain landscapes. The main focus was on the forefields of the glacier Tärnaglaciären in southern Swedish Lapland (1470-1245 m a.s.l.). Altogether seven megafossils were found and radio-carbon dated (4 Betula, 2 Pinus and 1 Picea). Betula and Pinus range in age between 9435 and 6665 cal. yr BP. The most remarkable discovery was a cone of Pice aabies, contained in an outwash peat cake, dating 11 200 cal. yr BP. The peat cake also contained common boreal ground cover vascular plant species and bryophytes. All recovered tree specimens originate from exceptionally high elevations, about 600-700 m atop of modern treeline positions. This implies, corrected for land uplift, summer temperatures, at least 3.6 °C higher than present-day standards. The current results, in combination with those from other Swedish glaciers, contribute to a new view on the early postglacial landscape and climate in high-altitude Swedish Scandes
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to analyze the scientific basis of the Paris climate agreement. Design/methodology/approach The analyses are based on the IPCC’s own reports, the observed temperatures versus the IPCC model-calculated temperatures and the warming effects of greenhouse gases based on the critical studies of climate sensitivity (CS). Findings The future emission and temperature trends are calculated according to a baseline scenario by the IPCC, which is the worst-case scenario RCP8.5. The selection of RCP8.5 can be criticized because the present CO2 growth rate 2.2 ppmy⁻¹ should be 2.8 times greater, meaning a CO2 increase from 402 to 936 ppm. The emission target scenario of COP21 is 40 GtCO2 equivalent, and the results of this study confirm that the temperature increase stays below 2°C by 2100 per the IPCC calculations. The IPCC-calculated temperature for 2016 is 1.27°C, 49 per cent higher than the observed average of 0.85°C in 2000. Originality/value Two explanations have been identified for this significant difference in the IPCC’s calculations: The model is too sensitive for CO2 increase, and the positive water feedback does not exist. The CS of 0.6°C found in some critical research studies means that the temperature increase would stay below the 2°C target, even though the emissions would follow the baseline scenario. This is highly unlikely because the estimated conventional oil and gas reserves would be exhausted around the 2060s if the present consumption rate continues.
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 5 (IPCC AR5, 2013) discussed bulk atmospheric temperatures as indicators of climate variability and change. We examine four satellite datasets producing bulk tropospheric temperatures, based on microwave sounding units (MSUs), all updated since IPCC AR5. All datasets produce high correlations of anomalies versus independent observations from radiosondes (balloons), but differ somewhat in the metric of most interest, the linear trend beginning in 1979. The trend is an indicator of the response of the climate system to rising greenhouse gas concentrations and other forcings, and so is critical to understanding the climate. The satellite results indicate a range of near-global (+0.07 to +0.13°C decade⁻¹) and tropical (+0.08 to +0.17°C decade⁻¹) trends (1979–2016), and suggestions are presented to account for these differences. We show evidence that MSUs on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellites (NOAA-12 and −14, 1990–2001+) contain spurious warming, especially noticeable in three of the four satellite datasets. Comparisons with radiosonde datasets independently adjusted for inhomogeneities and Reanalyses suggest the actual tropical (20°S-20°N) trend is +0.10 ± 0.03°C decade⁻¹. This tropical result is over a factor of two less than the trend projected from the average of the IPCC climate model simulations for this same period (+0.27°C decade⁻¹).
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Beef cattle have been identified as the largest livestock-sector contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Using life cycle analysis (LCA), several studies have concluded that grass-finished beef systems have greater GHG intensities than feedlot-finished (FL) beef systems. These studies evaluated only one grazing management system – continuous grazing – and assumed steady-state soil carbon (C), to model the grass-finishing environmental impact. However, by managing for more optimal forage growth and recovery, adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing can improve animal and forage productivity, potentially sequestering more soil organic carbon (SOC) than continuous grazing. To examine impacts of AMP grazing and related SOC sequestration on net GHG emissions, a comparative LCA was performed of two different beef finishing systems in the Upper Midwest, USA: AMP grazing and FL. We used on-farm data collected from the Michigan State University Lake City AgBioResearch Center for AMP grazing. Impact scope included GHG emissions from enteric methane, feed production and mineral supplement manufacture, manure, and on-farm energy use and transportation, as well as the potential C sink arising from SOC sequestration. Across-farm SOC data showed a 4-year C sequestration rate of 3.59 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 in AMP grazed pastures. After including SOC in the GHG footprint estimates, finishing emissions from the AMP system were reduced from 9.62 to −6.65 kg CO2-e kg carcass weight (CW)−1, whereas FL emissions increased slightly from 6.09 to 6.12 kg CO2-e kg CW−1 due to soil erosion. This indicates that AMP grazing has the potential to offset GHG emissions through soil C sequestration, and therefore the finishing phase could be a net C sink. However, FL production required only half as much land as AMP grazing. While the SOC sequestration rates measured here were relatively high, lower rates would still reduce the AMP emissions relative to the FL emissions. This research suggests that AMP grazing can contribute to climate change mitigation through SOC sequestration and challenges existing conclusions that only feedlot-intensification reduces the overall beef GHG footprint through greater productivity.
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Ions produced by cosmic rays have been thought to influence aerosols and clouds. In this study, the effect of ionization on the growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei is investigated theoretically and experimentally. We show that the mass-flux of small ions can constitute an important addition to the growth caused by condensation of neutral molecules. Under atmospheric conditions the growth from ions can constitute several percent of the neutral growth. We performed experimental studies which quantify the effect of ions on the growth of aerosols between nucleation and sizes >20 nm and find good agreement with theory. Ion-induced condensation should be of importance not just in Earth's present day atmosphere for the growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei under pristine marine conditions, but also under elevated atmospheric ionization caused by increased supernova activity.
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Background: Livestock play an important role in carbon cycling through consumption of biomass and emissions of methane. Recent research suggests that existing bottom-up inventories of livestock methane emissions in the US, such as those made using 2006 IPCC Tier 1 livestock emissions factors, are too low. This may be due to outdated information used to develop these emissions factors. In this study, we update information for cattle and swine by region, based on reported recent changes in animal body mass, feed quality and quantity, milk productivity, and management of animals and manure. We then use this updated information to calculate new livestock methane emissions factors for enteric fermentation in cattle, and for manure management in cattle and swine. Results: Using the new emissions factors, we estimate global livestock emissions of 119.1 ± 18.2 Tg methane in 2011; this quantity is 11% greater than that obtained using the IPCC 2006 emissions factors, encompassing an 8.4% increase in enteric fermentation methane, a 36.7% increase in manure management methane, and notable variability among regions and sources. For example, revised manure management methane emissions for 2011 in the US increased by 71.8%. For years through 2013, we present (a) annual livestock methane emissions, (b) complete annual livestock carbon budgets, including carbon dioxide emissions, and (c) spatial distributions of livestock methane and other carbon fluxes, downscaled to 0.05 × 0.05 degree resolution. Conclusions: Our revised bottom-up estimates of global livestock methane emissions are comparable to recently reported top-down global estimates for recent years, and account for a significant part of the increase in annual methane emissions since 2007. Our results suggest that livestock methane emissions, while not the dominant overall source of global methane emissions, may be a major contributor to the observed annual emissions increases over the 2000s to 2010s. Differences at regional and local scales may help distinguish livestock methane emissions from those of other sectors in future top-down studies. The revised estimates allow improved reconciliation of top-down and bottom-up estimates of methane emissions, will facilitate the development and evaluation of Earth system models, and provide consistent regional and global Tier 1 estimates for environmental assessments.
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Sea level changes is a key issue in the global warming scenario. It has been widely claimed that sea is rising as a function of the late 20 th 's warming pulse. Global tide gauge data sets may vary between +1.7 mm/yr to +0.25 mm/yr depending upon the choice of stations. At numerous individual sites, available tide gauges show variability around a stable zero level. Coastal morphology is a sharp tool in defining ongoing changes in sea level. A general stability has been defined in sites like the Maldives, Goa, Bangladesh and Fiji. In contrast to all those observations, satellite altimetry claim there is a global mean rise in sea level of about 3.0 mm/yr. In this paper, it is claimed that the satellite altimetry values have been " manipulated ". In this situation, it is recommended that we return to the observational facts, which provides global sea level records varying between ±0.0 and +1.0 mm/yr; i.e. values that pose no problems in coastal protection.