Question of the week: Why shouldn't agriculture and foods systems be included in a bill to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? It certainly seems like a significant oversight on the parts of Congressmen Ed Markey and Henry Waxman who last week introduced the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which aims to reduce emissions by a whopping 83% below 2005 levels by 2050. Great things are possible with support for renewable energy, cleaner fuels, carbon sequestering, and building efficiency, and I agree with Steve Cohen in his New York Observer article when he says, "For the environmental community, let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good." However ... I tend to agree with food blogger Tom Philpott at Grist:
Who really cares about cow farts anyway when we have coal fired power plants to deal with? I respectfully disagree. Energy and climate policy that doesn’t consider the impact of our food and agricultural systems on greenhouse gas emissions is missing a big chunk of the problem. Collectively, our entire food system and associated emissions may be contributing up to 1/3 of global greenhouse emissions by some scientific accounts. Domestically, the agricultural sector (which doesn’t include things like food processing, packaging and transportation) accounts for nearly 2/3 of all nitrous oxide emissions, which by the Markey and Waxman bill is 298 times as potent as CO2. About 1/3 of all methane emissions (which is 25 times as potent as CO2) in the United States are solely from enteric fermentation and manure management.
Sure, we can all do the grass-roots thing and cut back on T-bones. What do you think? Should agriculture be part of this bill?