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Published: Saturday 21 September, 2013

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Climate change emissions from meat production are far higher than estimated, according to a controversial new study that will fuel the debate on whether people should eat fewer animal products to help the environment.

In a paper published by a respected United States think tank, the Worldwatch Institute, two World Bank environmental advisers claim that instead of 18 per cent of global emissions being caused by meat, the true figure is 51 per cent.

They claim United Nations figures have severely underestimated the greenhouse gases caused by tens of billions of cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and other animals in three main areas: methane, land use and respiration.

Their findings which are likely to prompt fierce debate among academics come amid increasing calls from climate change experts for people to eat less meat.

In the 19page report, Robert Goodland, a former lead environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, a current adviser, suggest domesticated animals cause 32 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent CO2, more than the combined impact of industry and energy. The accepted figure is 18 per cent, taken from a landmark UN report in 2006, Livestocks Long Shadow.

If this argument is right, write Goodland and Anhang, it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change.

In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on greenhouse gas emissions and their atmospheric concentrations than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Their call to move to meat substitutes accords with the views of the chairman of the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who has described eating less meat as the most attractive opportunity for making immediate changes to climate change. It puts enormous pressure on the worlds resources.

Scientists are concerned about livestocks exhalation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Cows and other ruminants emit 37 per cent of th balenciaga city bag e worlds methane. A study by Nasa scientists published in Science on Friday found that methane has significantly more effect on climate change than previously thought: 33 times more than carbon dioxide, compared with a previous factor of 25.

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According to Goodland and Anhangs paper, which has not been peerreviewed, scientists have significantly underestimated emissions of methane expelled by livestock. They argue the gass impact should be calculated over 20 years, in line with its rapid effect and the latest recommendation from the UN rather than the 100 years favoured by Livestocks Long Shadow. This, they say, would add a further 5 billion tonnes of CO2 to livestock emissions 7.9 per cent of global emissions from all sources.

Similarly, they claim official figures are wrong to ignore CO2 emitted by breathing animals on the basis it is offset by carbon photosynthe balenciaga city bag sised by their food, arguing the existence of this unnecessary animalbased CO2 amounts to 8.7 billion tonnes of CO2, 3.7 per cent of total emissions.

On land use, they calculate that returning the land being used for livestock to natural vegetation and forests would remove 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, 4.2 per cent of greenhouse gas. They also complain that the UN underestimated the amount of livestock. balenciaga city bag