Friday, December 11, 2009

Cattle, the ignored climate predator

Mario Osava in IPS: Because of its effect on the environment, cattle must be given the same priority in global agendas as nuclear weapons, wars and, in particular, climate change, says Brazilian activist João Meirelles Filho, author of two books on Amazon deforestation.

Cattle farming in Brazil is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions, as it is responsible for four-fifths of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and three-fourths of the burning of forests and vegetation throughout the country, besides emitting most of the country's methane, an important greenhouse gas produced in the digestive system of cattle. Brazil's promise to cut polluting gas emissions is not believable because it is based solely on limiting deforestation, without touching the real cause which is extensive cattle farming, Meirelles told TerraViva.

According to this environmental expert - who heads the Peabirú Institute and is an advocate of sustainable and social development for the Amazon region -, by failing to address this issue, Brazil is not bringing a policy proposal to the Dec. 7-18 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, just unrealistic figures and targets.

José Miguez, coordinator of the Inter-Ministerial Commission on Climate Change, has a radically different position. "The leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil is not livestock production" but rather the "changes in the use of land and forests," including deforestation, the government official told TerraViva.

But Meirelles' theory, which for many years had fallen on deaf ears, has now been confirmed by 10 researchers from various universities and government institutes, plus one environmental NGO, who concur that at least half of all harmful gases emitted by Brazil from 2003 to 2008 came from cattle-related sources.

This finding is included in a study entitled "Estimates of Recent Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Cattle Farming in Brazil," which will be presented Saturday in Copenhagen. In it the researchers warn that government authorities and some experts underestimate the incidence of certain greenhouse gas sources on environmental pollution....

This herd of Gyr, a tropical cattle breed, is being studied as part of Labex research on cattle genetics. Above, animal caretaker José Cristiano dos Santos takes the cows for a health inspection at the Coronel Pacheco Experimental Station, near Valenca, Brazil. Wikimedia Commons via Agricultural Research Service


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