Hamburgers and Hummers: Scientists Denounce Meat As Major Cause of Global Warming

300px-hamburger_sandwichAnother scientific report has denounced the environmental damage caused by beef consumption in the United States. Nathan Pelletier of Dalhousie University in Canada has released a study showing how cows consume a disproportionate amount of food (more than they produce in meat) and cause 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Beef is responsible for 78 percent of the emissions of meat consumption, even though it represents only 30 percent of the meat products.

A single kilogram of beef produces 16 kilograms carbon dioxide — four times higher than pork and more than ten times as much as a kilogram of poultry. Thus, a switch from beef to chicken would cut emissions by 70 percent.

Hamburgers are therefore the hummers of our diet.

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31 thoughts on “Hamburgers and Hummers: Scientists Denounce Meat As Major Cause of Global Warming”

  1. Simply, the earth(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) is being destroyed, and that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Peace, Hope, Faith, Miracles, Grace, etc.) is being perverted by “imag”inative humanoids whose “god is their bellies, and whose glory is in their shame”…….

  2. Did you see the new PETA ad showing two Hummers getting it on in front of a bunch of hamburgers? Pretty sexy!

  3. Ocean acidity and CO2 – will the oceans absorb or release CO2?

    No one knows the answer – as the earth warms, CO2 is released because CO2 is less soluble in warm water. As more CO2 is released, the “Surface” waters contain additional CO2 due to Dalton’s Law of Partial pressures. But the Ocean as a whole gives up CO2.

    Having read dozens of papers on the subject, it seems that no one really knows where the balance is as the system is too complex to model and the saturation and mixing times are so long that the whole thing is indeterminate.

  4. Solar is the solution. Wind power is the solution. Nuclear is the solution.

    Ever hear of the heat island affect? Solar, wind power, Nuclear all produce heat. Solar and wind power are around 30% efficient at best. The other 70% gets turned into heat one way or another. About the same efficiency as a diesel generator. So for every kW of power we produce, we dump 2 kW of heat into the atmosphere. No form of power does not vent some heat into the atmosphere – even geothermal. We take heat out of the earth and a portion of it gets vented to the atmosphere. It is a simple equation of physics we all learned in school. Unless you have a 100% efficient machine, everything we do puts heat into the atmosphere. I would not worry about a relatively tiny bit of human produced carbon dioxide compared to all toxic waste we produce.

    AGW is one of the great misdirections of all time. Focus on CO2 while the earth burns.

  5. Bron,
    You are flying in the face of the consensus of the Scientific community to say that the alarming warming of our plane is not man made. Besides, the real proof is that whenever I eat meat, I get very warm and sleepy!

  6. Bron,

    Yes, the oceans do buffer out CO2, but the problem with that is saturation. As CO2 increases, so does the acidity of the water. All kinds of unpleasant things happen when you screw with water’s pH. The worst thing is you could kill all the plants. However, this scrubbing is a natural process, albeit a slower one than suits “our industrial needs”. This is one reason why plans to artificially sequester carbon in “carbon sinks” at the bottom of the ocean is met with skepticism – it’s inherently risky although theoretically feasible.

    The reason these gases collect varies, but it’s help to remember that carbon is very bonding friendly in chemistry. In it’s raw, refined state it has 8 open covalent bonding points. What we dump in the air is not always straight CO2 either, but methane, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons as well. A lot of factors contribute to retention. Sometimes it’s density, other times it’s pure chemical interaction and binding similar to what happens with CFC’s and natural ozone in the ionosphere – an atmospheric feature which not only protects us from cosmic rays, but can help retain certain compounds by it’s electrical nature. It’s also why pollution causes smog and acid rain. But the primary mechanic is that these compounds have significantly different heating characteristics than the gases in highest concentration in the atmosphere, namely nitrogen and oxygen. Carbon holds a lot of heat, nitrogen very little. That’s one of the reasons Edison used carbon for early light bulb filaments was it’s ability to absorb heat and remain stable. And while it is true that a lot of CO2 is made by nature (specifically in water vapor), that doesn’t mean the cycle should be messed with. Nature set it’s own equilibrium between N, O, CO2 and noble gases. We are in effect, playing with the thermostat before we fully understand how the heating AND cooling mechanisms work in enough detail to “fix them” should they break.

  7. Gyges/Buddha:

    I am looking at the earth from the moon, I see basically a self contained system not unlike a terrarium with a sun lamp for energy. The atmosphere and magnetic fields are somewhat similar to the glass of my terrarium. The only energy comes from the sun, nothing else except maybe some geothermal heat. The oceans provide cooling by evaporation, water vapor is released into the atmosphere and it rains.

    How do green houses gases collect? Dosent plant life take up CO2 and give off O2, the process is also reversed. I thought the oceans were good at buffering CO2. What about the little ice age in Europe what caused that? From my limited knoweldge it appears that most major climate changes are attributable to natural phenomena and not man. I am certainly open to that possibility but there are so many factors can man really tip the balance? Could some of this be conclusions based on other situations where man has impacted the environment such as mercury levels in fish or polluted rivers? By that I mean the scientist is more receptive to the theory that man is causing atmospheric change because of earth bound pollution?

    And on a humerous note if we are going into another ice age shouldnt we be pumping out ghg in copious amounts?

  8. The best thing to do in a situation like this is it eat more beef.

    Please everyone, go out and get some good ground beef tonight and light up that grill. Do your environment a favor!!

  9. That’ll teach me to get out of the habit of proof reading: “… that humans are…,” “…that C02 emissions is…,” and “…on Climate Change Denial…”

  10. Gyges,

    I’m with you there. Global warming is a terribly simplistic term for a very complicated issue.

  11. Bron,

    I’m always a little hesitant to call it “Global warming” because that sort of avoids the heart of the issue, which is that Mankind is affecting the planet in ways that can potentially harm not only ourselves but other species. I included the Dust Bowl as an example to prove that point.

    It’s an oversimplification to say that CO2 alone causes global temperature increase, or that human’s are solely responsible. Obviously the earth has gone into cooling and warming periods before humans were on the scene in large enough numbers to do anything. The truth of the matter is that our behavior is the only part of the equation we have any large degree of control over, and that CO2 is one of the more easily identified behaviors. So that’s the only factor that gets discussed in a policy making situation.

    The CO2 data is relatively easy to find. You’ll actually find that rises in CO2 tend to follow the initially warming, but that there’s feedback relationship between the temperature rises and CO2 levels. That’s a big factor in what Buddha is talking about when he mentions the planet turning into a Venus type climate. Since posts with too many links end up in Limbo, I’ll just recommend you browse through some of the sources sited at the bottom of the Wikipedia (I don’t generally rely solely on Wikipedia articles, but they’re a good way to find the original studies, and to double check memory) articles on Climate Change and Climate change attribution. I also found the article on Climate Denial a fairly interesting read.

    If you really want an esoteric read on the subject of how life in general affects climates Carl Sagan’s son, Dorion, wrote “Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life.” I’m pretty sure there’s a link in the SWIFT archives at, I’ll take a look later to see if I can’t find it.

  12. There is a flaw with the solar output theory and you’d need to know a little astrophysics to know it. Albedo and atmospheric chemistry are only two parts of the heat equation to the sun’s third.

    While there are variations in solar output, the aggregate output is quite stable in a G class star. Our sun is a very well behaved star. It burns at a relatively even rate. This is often not the case because either there is more than one star in the system or the fundamental nature of the star is not like a G glass. For a science fiction example of a system with a temperamental star(s), I suggest the book “Fire Time” by Poul Anderson. It takes place on the planet Ishtar. The system there is a trinary and every thousand years when the suns reach critical alignment, one hemisphere of the planet becomes uninhabitable. This cyclic causes regular collapses in Istarian society that is further complicated by the arrival (and war) of the Humans. It’s also an allegory for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I digress. It’s a fictional example, sure, but it does illustrate that our sun is really pretty tame by comparison. Binary and trinary systems far outnumber single stars like ours.

    The degree of stellar stability changes as you move up or down in stellar classification scale as well – stability varies based on mass and rate of fuel consumption. The worst case scenario is a Cepheid variable.

    They are like a star with the hiccups. Life there would be impossible as we know it and very strange if it did exist there. But a chance of technological civilization forming around a star like that is close to zero.

    You are correct in that our sun is the primary driver of all weather and that it’s output varies. That’s why we have cyclical ice ages and, combined with procession and axial tilt, the seasons. But it is that very cycle we are interrupting by changing atmospheric chemistry. It’s all an equation. The next time the sun starts to “cool”, there will be more latent heat in Earth’s system than before technological off gassing started. Because of the inherent instability created by adding these gases, it is difficult to predict how this will manifest – it could mean a delayed or an early ice age, a short one, or a REALLY bad long one. We won’t know until it’s too late. The one thing we can predict is that the instability will make for insane weather. The sun is only part of the equation and fortunately for us, a fairly stable part of it. But when you change either the Earth’s atmospheric composition or it’s albedo, the results will change. We have zero chance of changing the sun, but we can control what we dump into the local system vis a vis heat retention/generation.

  13. Gyges:

    thanks for info. I have looked at some of the science and I still think that global warming is not man made. I dont disagree the world is warming as Buddha said above when he was a boy it was a lot colder. But there is one main mechanism that contributes/plays a significant role – sun activity, it is the main culprit in my mind. Every system on earth is at the mercy of the sun, from the El Nino to the winds. The energy of the sun is life for earth.

    I personally think the earth, when it gets tired of humans, will shake like an old hound dog trying to get rid of fleas (I think humans are bit higher on the evol. scale than fleas this is purely metaphorical) and the human race is gone. And I do believe global warming is political. But from a different angle.

    See if you can get access to some of the actual test data on CO2 levels over the past 600,000 years and look at this vs temperature. It is interesting and I would be interested on your thoughts on this.

    By the way Joy of Cooking is the bible, my grandmother swore by it.

  14. Bron,

    Actually Meat is natural. Domesticated anything is relatively new. Which brings up a prime example of how humans DO effect their surrounding environment, and have for quite some time. The differences between a farm and grassland are big, the differences between a farm and forest are huge. You have a change in heat absorption, water use, the chemical makeup of the soil, erosion rates, etc. over a fairly short period of time. If you want a concrete example, just think of the Dust Bowl.

    As to your claim that “Man made global warming is bad science” I highly suggest you start actually reading actual scientific articles (in peer reviewed journals if you can get past the jargon). Or at the very least magazine articles, books, and blogs written by actual scientists. You’ve shown a couple of times some common misconceptions that I’ve only seen pop up from sources that have more to do with politics than science. I suggest Discover Magazine as a source for the blogs (I really like Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog).

    This isn’t a “my scientist can beat up your scientist” sort of thing. The scientific community as a whole is self correcting, more than a few really get off on proving other people wrong. Politics plays a part in a few people’s beliefs, but not enough that it could account for the views of a majority of scientists in as big of a field as big as climatology.

  15. Bron,

    While I agree with you conclusion, your science is off RE: warming and atmospheric composition.

    You were spot on about grass fed cattle being better for you than industrially raised hormone and grain fed cattle for health reasons, but the reality is that much of Earth’s existence has been cold and frozen. We are right now in a gap between ice ages. And we will have another one. But how is that possible with global warming?

    Simple really and it’s all related to how poorly the media has educated the populace about what global warming actually is. First, let’s get to volcanism. Sure, they pump a lot of greenhouse gases into the air, but with few exceptions from the geological past, that alone won’t create a permanent change in chemistry. There are exceptions to this, caldera volcanoes like Yellowstone, that are capable of eruptions that make Krakatoa look like a pop rock. Should Yellowstone blow, we’d have ash FEET thick as far away as Kansas City. Fortunately those are very rare events. What global warming is NOT is a recipe for uniformly higher temperature, i.e. a hot house, although that could happen (I’ll get to that).

    What global warming really is a destabilizing mechanism. The net effect of global warming can be seen as some places starting to have higher median temperatures than normal, but that is not the sole danger or even the most pressing one. Localized heat sinks happen in nature all the time based on geography and geology. See the formation of the deserts in North Africa for example. The problem with global warming is in the destabilization. We won’t have just warmer weather. We’ll have more extreme and violent weather of every variety. Think of Earth and the Sun absent human intervention as a system in thermodynamics. The Sun heats the Earth and the Earth in turn re-radiates any excess heat back into space. That re-radiation is determined by albedo (the Earth’s intrinsic reflectivity) and atmospheric chemistry. Now consider added heat from whatever source as error. I’ve already spoken about how in chaos theory that complexity breeds error and error breeds instability than can lead to a singularity. It translates here as well to meteorology. In fact, much of the pioneering work in chaos theory was done by observing cloud formation.

    We complicate the system by adding gases to the atmosphere. As that “error” compounds, the weather will start to act crazier and crazier. Just like it is now. By anecdotal personal experience, we used to have WINTER in KC. Real winter when I was a kid. Snow on the ground from December to March. Now we still get snow, but three days later it may be in 60’s. What will happen as error compounds is we run the risk of an atmospheric singularity – a point where there is not going back because we have overloaded the system with “error” that the oceans are incapable of re-stabilizing (and the oceans are indeed both an atmospheric cleaning system and Earth’s thermostat). If that happens, we turn into Venus – the ultimate hot house. Our atmospheric chemistry will have changed to the point that the net heat re-radiated into space is insufficient and Earth becomes an oven. Now that’s the Hollywood disaster scenario because nature will likely kill us off and correct itself well before we get to that point. Or it should. Systems seek equilibrium.

    The problem with that is random events we cannot foresee. Take volcanoes and asteroid/cometary collisions. It’s not inconceivable that industrialization could build up the instability in the atmospheric chemistry and heat exchange mechanisms that should something happen like a major Yellowstone eruption or a sizable meteor strike, it could push the system to singularity. And no one can live on Venus.

    No, humans are not the sole causes of atmospheric chemistry, but we are the large part of the “unnatural” changes, including cattle. Cattle as they exist today and in the numbers they exist in would not be here but for human intervention. Am I suggesting doing away with cattle? No, car and factory emissions are much more dangerous, but anything we can do to limit damage is good when the risk is human annihilation either by drips and drabs or in one fell swoop. The danger in global warming is not the destruction of the Earth, the planet will eventually recover or change to an uninhabitable state, but humans are quite disposable in the scheme of the systemic totality.

    And don’t get me wrong. I have lived in KC and have on and off my entire life. How much do you think I love a good steak or BBQ? They have a saying here. Barbecue is life. There are times when I get an itch only ribs will scratch. ‘Nuff said. But cutting back on the cattle part of it is a small price to pay so our great grandchildren don’t have to live in domes underground or to be born choking to death in a caustic atmosphere. It’s still not as ranking an issue as industrial gases output. Factories belch some really foul things into the air and they aren’t all just greenhouse gases. But anything we can do to lessen “error” helps.

    You were spot on about nuclear power and France as a model. I don’t think it will be a panacea, but it can help a lot. Waste is a serious issue, but recently there have been advances in reactor design – including one that can use waste products for fuel and leave a cleaner mess for us. The Holy Grail of power though will always be solar though. Solar is the heart of ALL energy. Everything burnable on Earth started with the Sun – from wood to uranium. If we can bypass the middle men of nature’s energy storage mechanisms, why not?

    I hope that was useful.

  16. humans are paleolithic hunter gathers, beef is a natural part of our diet. the problem with beef is that it is grain fed and not grass fed. grass fed beef is high in omega 3 fatty acids (the same ones found in cold water fish) and does not need hormones or antibiotics. How much green house gasses are emmitted by insects? Dogs, cats, fish? What about humans, a lot of us are full of methane and sulfer dioxide. If beef were grass fed how much would that reduce greenhouse gasses?

    Global warming induced by human activity is bad science, for most of the history of the earth it has been a hot house. Sun activity or lack there of is probably the leading cause of global cooling and warming. Furthermore one good volcanic eruption will have a significant effect on global temperatures, see eruption of Krakatoa in the late 1800’s, and probably emits more greenhouse gasses in a single eruption than all human activity for a year.

    Nuclear power takes care of all environmental concerns, France gets 70% plus of it energy from nuclear power. If the US could start building nukes we could be free of fossil fuels for good and have a 100% electrical power source for everything. Nuclear power good for the environment good for people.

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