Commentary, Environment

Expert: The truth about farting cows and the policies that actually put hamburger at risk

You’ve probably heard something in the news of late about the proposed Green New Deal and how its proponents supposedly want to end the production of beef. North Carolina’s tea partying congressman Mark Meadows made such a claim recently. As climate expert Dr. Joe Romm, pointed out over the weekend in a column entitled “Republicans are the real threat to hamburgers, not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” however, the truth about what the Green New Deal proposes and the policies that actually put beef production at risk are a little different.

After pointing out that the original mention of “farting cows” come from a draft FAQ section associated with the proposal that was later deleted, Romm explains:

“The actual resolution says only that the goal of slashing carbon pollution over the next decade should be achieved by “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

Romm then goes on to point out that Ocasio-Cortez was clearly right when she said that “We gotta address factory farming. Maybe we shouldn’t be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” He than says this:

“Reducing beef consumption isn’t just good for your health, it’s needed to preserve a livable climate. The fact that per capita red meat consumption has been on the decline in this country in recent decades suggests Americans understand one if not both of those facts.

But the GOP effort to block any serious discussion or legislation to address climate change has never been based on facts.

After all, if Republican leaders and President Donald Trump actually accepted climate science, they would understand that their do-nothing strategy is the greatest imaginable threat to every single type of food production, including livestock.

Because grazing cattle require so much arable land and fresh water, cows are among the biggest victims of any extended drought — and climate change is already driving a major increase in the duration and intensity of droughts in this country and around the world.

Higher temperatures from global warming cause greater evaporation, drying up reservoirs and parching the land. At the same time, climatic shifts in precipitation are causing longer dry spells in the Great Plains and Southwest, like the epic multi-year drought California endured earlier in the decade.

Together, these factors turn ordinary droughts into mega-droughts, which result in less water for people and cattle — and for the crops we both feed on. In the early part of this decade, Texas was in the middle of its worst drought in recorded history, causing epic water shortages and cutting down crops like hay and corn that serve as cattle feed.”

In other words, as Romm concludes, large-scale cattle farming isn’t going to survive in a world that features mega-droughts:

“To get to the more manageable ‘lower emissions’ scenario, America and the world must far exceed the emissions reduction goals agreed to in Paris in December 2015. In short, we need something approximating a Green New Deal.

House Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee mockingly tweeted that they need to eat hamburgers now before they disappear.

Thanks to their blinkered denial of the climate crisis, that may be more prescient than they realize.”

Click here to read Romm’s entire article.

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