Wake up and Smell the Ammonia

In another one of its hyper-ventilating editorials on global warming, The Oregonian today criticized the Bush administration. According to the Portland daily, the administration has refused to require the auto and trucking industries to curtail “the greenhouse gas emissions that an overwhelming number of scientists assert are the major cause of global warming.”

However, a new report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization shows that the global livestock sector is responsible for a higher share of greenhouse gas emissions than transport. Livestock account for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, 37 percent of methane emissions, 64 percent of ammonia emissions, and 65 percent of global nitrous oxide.

Livestock affect climate through the process of deforestation caused by expansion of pastures, off-gassing from manure, and “enteric fermentation by ruminants”, a fancy name for methane cow burps. Since the global production of meat is expected to double by 2050, this might be an area worth investigating as part of a greenhouse gas control strategy.

Meanwhile, emissions of hydrocarbons from cars and trucks in the U.S. have fallen 99.3 percent on a per-mile basis since 1968, and carbon monoxide emissions have declined by 96 percent.

Demonizing motor vehicles is a reflex action for most environmental journalists, but it may be time to round up some new suspects in the global warming debate.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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