It’s no surprise that cattle ranchers are concerned about the EPA “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gasses “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”
The lagoons full of manure create methane, a gas that’s about 20 times worse than CO2 in contributing to climate change. A single pound of beef produces 16 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions, according to researchers.
But instead of showing concern over the impact that their industry has on our environment, The National Cattlemen’s Association is more concerned with the impact that cleaning it up would have on their bottom line. To protect the industry, The National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) just recently filed a challenge to the EPA’s endangerment finding on GHG gases. In a statement, a spokesman for the organization said,
“It’s premature to issue this kind of finding, especially given the recent controversy surrounding the scientific validity of alleged human contributions to climate change. Regulation of greenhouse gases should be based on science, and it should be thoughtfully considered and voted on by Congress through a democratic process, not dictated by the EPA.”
In other words, they’d like politicians rather than scientists to decide the science, since they didn’t like the outcome. The statement also says “Rather than being subject to overly-burdensome regulations, agriculture should be rewarded for the carbon reductions we provide”, which makes it pretty clear what the they hope to get out of this move.
As is the case with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cattle ranchers are trying to protect “business as usual”, in the face of overwhelming evidence that it has to change. But rather than focus on a practical roadmap for more responsible business practices, it seems to be easier to challenge the science. Don’t be fooled: Dollars and cents are what are behind most of the attacks on the science.
Unfortunately, even U.S. action won’t be enough, and cattlemen do have a legitimate “beef” with an EPA approach to greenhouse gas regulation: 1/3 of beef consumed in the U.S. already comes from non U.S.ranches, and it is critical to avoid any approach that simply shifts the emissions problem offshore. This highlights the need for the type of global cooperation we tried to get in Copenhagen, and a domestic policy which recognizes that imports into the U.S.. need to be held to the same standards we apply to our domestic industries.
And in the meantime? Reducing your meat consumption by just 20 percent (a day and a half per week without meat) would be the equivalent of switching from a pretty good sized standard sedan to a hybrid. How’s that for a new year’s resolution!