By Jeff McMahon
The world has focused first on energy in its effort to stop greenhouse gas emissions, but former Energy Secretary Steven Chu puts agriculture at the top of his list of climate challenges—particularly animal agriculture.
The Nobel Prize winning physicist surveyed the world’s carbon-polluting industries in a lecture at the University of Chicago, and he started with meat and dairy.
“If cattle and dairy cows were a country, they would have more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire EU 28,” said Chu, who recently assumed the presidency of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Just something to think about.”
Chu lumped the greenhouse gas emissions from meat and dairy with other agricultural practices, such as fertilizer, and land-use changes, such as deforestation and soil disruption. He weighted the resulting greenhouse gases for lifetime and potency, showing that emissions from agriculture are a bigger problem than emissions from energy.
“Let me say it again: agriculture and land-use generates more greenhouse gas emissions than power generation.”
Chu described the unnatural effects of industrial agriculture: what he called “oversexed corn” that devotes all its life energy to making giant kernels, pigs that gain 280 pounds in a matter of months, turkeys so breast-heavy they can’t mate and must be artificially inseminated—a planet dominated by animals modified and raised and slaughtered to feed humans.
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