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PLANET EARTH:OUR LOVING HOME Dr. Robert Goodland on Climate Change and the Destructive Livestock Industry - P1/2    
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Informed viewers, welcome to this week’s edition of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, the first in a two-part series featuring acclaimed US environmental scientist, Dr. Robert Goodland, who will discuss how animal product production and consumption causes climate change.

Regarded as the “Conscience of the World Bank,” Dr. Goodland served the Bank as a senior environmental advisor for 23 years. Currently he is a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, a non-profit global think tank that conducts environmental research and provides solutions to governments, companies and communities regarding ecology-related issues.

He has authored or co-authored numerous books on sustainable economic development and the environment, serves as Metropolitan Chair of the Ecological Society of America, and is the past president of the International Association for Impact Assessment. In 2008, he received the first International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Coolidge Medal for his outstanding contributions to environmental conservation.

In October 2011, the Gwangju NGO Global Forum was held at South Korea’s Chonnam National University and featured a talk by Dr. Goodland entitled ““Food and Climate Change: Risk and Opportunity for Korea and the World.” The event was part of the 2011 Gwangju Summit of the Urban Environment Accords where mayors and professionals from more than 100 cities around the world gathered in Gwangju City to discuss pressing environmental issues facing urban areas.

Some of the distinguished attendees included Lester Brown, founder and president of the US-based Earth Policy Institute, Amina Mohamed, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, and Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT). We now present excerpts from an interview with Dr. Goodland and his talk in South Korea.

I think most of us agree that climate catastrophe is the biggest problem, the biggest predicament facing civilization today. (South) Korean greenhouse gas emissions are steadily rising. In 2005, (South) Korea emitted 490-million tons. By 2010, it was 570-million tons. By 2015, it’s predicted to be 604-million tons and so on. This is what’s causing climate change. The worldwide level of atmospheric greenhouse gases that’s agreed to be safe is 350 parts per million. Those of you who were here and heard Lester Brown saw this huge badge he had on his jacket. It said “350.” That’s the goal, 350 parts per million of greenhouse gas.

But most unfortunately, last year, the world’s average concentration already exceeded 350. It’s 390 right now. So we have to get back to a safe level, and we don’t have long. Several people asked Lester Brown how long we’ve got to get back to a safe level. He said, "Well, no one knows, but not as long as most people think." Now, whether that’s five years or maybe at the outside 10, it’s a very short time to make the huge changes required in our civilization to prevent climate catastrophe.

A forthcoming report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change entitled “Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” states that in coming years extreme weather-related events such as the 2011 wide-scale flooding in Thailand and the harsh droughts in the Horn of Africa will become more frequent.

Also, the Human Development Report 2011 by the United Nations Development Program includes a stern warning that without drastic action, the economic growth of developing countries could be halted or severely reduced by 2050. Massive biodiversity loss, fast-rising sea levels, immense food shortages, quickly-disappearing polar ice caps and glaciers, raging wildfires and millions of climate refugees are just a few of the other dire consequences of climate change. However when it comes to taking action on humanity’s most daunting challenge, investing in clean energy is the usual response. Dr. Goodland asks that we re-think this solution.

The biggest answer that most people think will help prevent climate catastrophe is a massive switch from fossil fuel, that’s coal, gas, oil, from fossil fuel over to sustainable energy, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, some small hydro maybe. But that transition from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, it’s essential but it’s too slow. Whatever you do, it’s going to take at least 20 years from 2010 to 2030, and most scientists say you cannot wait until 2030.

Changing from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, while essential, is not going to prevent climate catastrophe. The carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere lasts hundreds of years. So we have to get a faster way to prevent climate change than the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy.

The research of Dr. Goodland and other scientific experts concludes that livestock production is what needs to be addressed immediately to halt climate change.

Most people don’t know the huge scale of global livestock. The population of land-based animals has grown six-fold since 1960. So this climbing up the food chain is a fairly recent phenomenon in the world. In 2009, 60-billion livestock animals were raised, 60-billion were killed and 60-billion were eaten by us.

Now, a full one-quarter of all land worldwide is used for livestock grazing. One-third of all farmable land is now used for growing livestock feed like soybeans. The Amazon rainforest has been destroyed for cattle ranching and feed production. Most of (South) Korea’s beef comes from the Amazon rainforest and most of (South) Korea’s pig food and chicken feed.

The 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow” estimated that the livestock industry is responsible for 18% of human-induced global greenhouse-gas emissions.

The report examined the end-to-end emissions attributable to the livestock industry, including those from producing fertilizer, growing food crops for livestock and raising, killing, processing, refrigerating and transporting animals for food. Dr. Goodland and his colleague, Jeff Anhang re-examined the data presented in “Livestock’s Long Shadow” regarding the amount of greenhouse gases being generated by the industry and arrived at a different conclusion. Their findings are in the 2009 article “Livestock and Climate Change” that was published in World Watch Magazine.

Just raising cattle with their respiration and other parts of the livestock production cycle increases the greenhouse gas immensely.

FAO calculated that only 18% of anthropic greenhouse gas is produced by the livestock sector. Jeff Anhang and I recalculated FAO’s 18% and we found it was more like 51%. In other words, a huge difference. How come there is such a huge difference between FAO’s figure and ours? Well, it’s not easy to say, but it’s all in detail in the Table 1 of our World Watch article.

I took FAO's calculation and dissected it into all its many small parts. If you look at the WorldWatch article, Table 1, we have found about 10 discrepancies in the calculation of FAO. And when you put all those small discrepancies together, they add up to 51%, up from FAO's calculation of 18%.

The biggest one that FAO omitted was the respiration of the six-billion livestock animals that are killed every year. They all respire, and that contains carbon dioxide. And, they didn't include that. Most cattle come from the Amazon forest. People cut down the Amazon forest. The effect of that is it reduces the greenhouse-gas sequestration capacity of the forest.

Second, they burn the forest, which emits a huge amount of greenhouse gas. Then they raise cattle. Their belches, and respiration increase greenhouse gas. And then in the lifecycle of livestock, refrigeration, transport, and things like that also emit much more greenhouse gas. In addition, much Amazon forest is cut down not for livestock ranches but for livestock feed. And this livestock feed, a lot comes into (South) Korea, a lot goes to feed Chinese pigs. And so that's a huge amount of extra greenhouse gas from the livestock process.

Greenpeace Brazil points out that the livestock industry is responsible for about 80% of Amazon deforestation. The world’s forests store approximately 289 gigatons of carbon dioxide in trees and vegetation. Dr. Goodland estimates that at least 200 tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere for each hectare of forest cleared or burned, whereas moderately degraded grassland can store just eight tons per hectare.

Cutting the Amazon rainforest has huge implications for climate change. The Amazon forest in general is the biggest carbon sink the world has ever known, terrestrial sink. I think the oceans are slightly bigger. But if you cut down the forest, you reduce the capacity of that carbon sink to sequester carbon. Not only do you reduce the carbon absorption of the forest, but when the forest is burned, having been cut to create cattle pasture, that releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The article “Livestock and Climate Change” addresses why livestock cannot be considered as a repository for carbon by stating: “Even if one considers the standing mass of livestock as a carbon sink, by the FAO’s own estimate, the amount of carbon stored in livestock is trivial compared to the amount stored in forest cleared to create space for growing feed and grazing livestock.”

Now, so much forest is being cut down, the photosynthetic absorptive capacity of the world has been reduced. And so the old concept of the beautifully balanced ying and yang carbon cycle, where photosynthesis perfectly balances respiration, that's all out of the window. Humanity has managed to break the carbon cycle, and not many people admit it, yet.

In the end, only immediately changing the way we all eat will solve our world’s climate crisis.

And now we come to, I hope, the solution. What are the alternatives to animal-food-centric diets?

Climatically effective alternatives to eating livestock include any plant-based foods. If you find it difficult to make a transition from meat, then you can eat meat analogs.

Our sincere thanks, Dr. Robert Goodland, for your invaluable scientific research that clearly demonstrates that the production and consumption of animal products is the primary driver of climate change and deeply threatens the future of all civilization. May the entire world soon become aware of this fact and quickly put a stop to the livestock industry by following an organic vegan lifestyle for the sake of our planet and future generations.

For more information on Dr. Robert Goodland, please visit www.GoodlandRobert.com
Dr. Goodland’s books are available at www.Amazon.com
Download a free PDF of the article “Livestock and Climate Change” at www.WorldWatch.org/node/6294

Eco-conscious viewers, please join us again next Wednesday on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home for the concluding episode in our two-part series featuring Dr. Robert Goodland. Thank you for watching today’s program. May our world be forever blessed with the abundant love from the Divine.
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