Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment

Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment

From a summary of a report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization on the environmental impact of global livestock . Emphasis mine. If you buy their methodology, it implies that some moderate changes in diet and some moderate changes in food/water subsidies could make as big a difference to the environment as lots of people bicycling to work.

Hat tip to Bix:

At the same time, the livestock sector has assumed an often unrecognized role in global warming. Using a methodology that considered the entire commodity chain, FAO estimated that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, **a bigger share than that of transport.**

Greater efficiency in use of resources will be “the key to retracting livestock’s long shadow”. Although a host of effective technical options - for resource management, crop and livestock production, and post harvest reduction of losses - are available, current prices of land, water and feed resources used for livestock production do not reflect true scarcities, creating distortions that provide no incentive for efficient resource use. “This leads to the overuse of the resources and to major inefficiencies in the production process,” FAO says. “Future policies to protect the environment will therefore have to introduce adequate market pricing for the main inputs.”

In particular, water is grossly under-priced in most countries, and development of water markets and various types of cost recovery will be needed to correct the situation. In the case of land, suggested instruments include grazing fees, and better institutional arrangements for controlled and equitable access. The removal of livestock production subsidies is also likely to improve technical efficiency - in New Zealand, a drastic reduction in agricultural subsidies during the 1980s helped create one of the world’s most efficient and environmentally friendly ruminant livestock industries.