PBS Airs Disinformation On Climate Solutions

 

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it”

— Upton Sinclair

Disappointingly narrated by climate scientist, Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired an episode of “Global Wierding” that was filled with disinformation on Veganism and the impossibility of endless growth. It begins with Dr. Hayhoe posing the question,

“The easiest ways to fix climate change is by controlling our population and going Vegan, right?”

By now, shouldn’t it be abundantly clear to any scientist that we cannot solve climate change while continuing with our economic paradigm of endless growth, which includes the endless growth of human and farmed animal population? However, she begins with the straw man argument that controlling human population implies that there will be no more children by informing the viewers that she has a daughter.

Next Dr. Hayhoe admits that she continues to eat steak, thereby conveying the impression that climate change cannot be such a serious problem if even reputed climate scientists have not taken the elementary step of changing their food habits. When someone is yelling, “Fire” in a house on fire, would she not lose credibility if she is continuing to throw fuel on the fire?

Then Dr. Hayhoe claims that if you are living in a developing country, going Vegan is a luxury in light of access to adequate protein. Is she really not aware that poor people in developing countries are eating a plant-based diet for the most part? The average village dweller in India eats rice, dhal, roti and vegetable sabji, all of which are plant-based staples and yet, he or she can easily outperform city dwellers on manual tasks.

Trotting out the protein myth is inexcusable in the era of “The Game Changers”, especially when over a decade has passed since the American Dietetic Association published a peer-reviewed scientific paper clearly stating in the first two sentences of the abstract itself,

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Then, in a classic example of misdirection, Dr. Hayhoe pivots over to transportation and industry and spends a significant portion of the program touting the fabulous solutions that Volvo, Tesla and other industry stalwarts have been manufacturing, while continuing to promote endless economic growth.

Towards the end of the video, Dr. Hayhoe brings up the UN FAO’s discredited calculation that the greenhouse gas emissions contribution of animal agriculture is 14.5%. The UN FAO has a partnership with the International Meat Secretariat, the International Dairy Federation and the International Egg Producers Association. Therefore, the FAO scientists can be expected to adhere to the Upton Sinclair dictum,

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

According to the FAO scientists, animal agriculture is responsible for 9% of CO2, 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions globally. Furthermore, in the FAO’s calculations, the opportunity cost of animal agriculture, i.e., the amount of CO2 that can be sequestered on land annually if animal agriculture is eliminated, is precisely ZERO.

But this is just not true.

According to two World Bank scientists, Dr. Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, animal agriculture is responsible for 31% of CO2 emissions, 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions globally, while the opportunity cost of animal agriculture is at least 11.5 Gt CO2. They published their 51% estimate in 2009. There was a debate in the Animal Feed Science and Technology journal over these calculations between Goodland and Anhang on one side and the FAO scientists on the other in 2011 and 2012. The FAO scientists lost the debate and yet failed to correct their errors in the “revision” they published in 2013.

Last year, Searchinger et al published a paper in Nature magazine calculating the opportunity cost of animal agriculture to be 5 tons of CO2 per person, which works out to 34.5 Gt CO2 in 2009 and 39 Gt CO2 in 2019. Using Searchinger et al’s opportunity cost calculations and Goodland and Anhang’s ratios for the CO2, methane and N2O emissions, we showed that the animal agriculture sector is responsible for at least 87% of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Clearly, the UN FAO and Dr. Hayhoe are yet to see the light on this issue. But it is dangerously irresponsible for PBS to give them a platform to air this disinformation on such important climate solutions.

 

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Sailesh Rao
srao@climatehealers.org
3 Comments
  • Ray Kowalchuk
    Posted at 18:18h, 07 February Reply

    For an introduction to Dr. Hayhoe watch the first episode of Years of Living Dangerously, a series on climate change solutions. Actor Don Cheadle visits the community of Lubbock, Texas to commiserate with the parishioners of Pastor Andrew Farley, Hayhoe’s husband, over the loss of the local Cargill factory. The human impact of climate change is real…but the solutions require making the connections (despite the Upton Sinclair quotation offered above).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvhCnYvxQQ&t=12m44s

  • Ray Kowalchuk
    Posted at 20:46h, 08 February Reply

    Don Cheadle’s first segment in the Years of Living Dangerously pilot deals with the denial felt by the religious community in the town that lost their Cargill factory (however much they loved their employer, industry loves only profit; they unceremoniously pulled up their roots and went elsewhere). In part two we’re introduced to Katharine Hayhoe, whose work as a climate scientist and pastor’s wife is to deliver the straight goods on climate change (short of linking the local commerce in cattle ranching to its own impacts). It seems the sins of others (the oilfields of Texas?) have rained retribution unfairly in cattle country.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvhCnYvxQQ&t=27m25s

  • Ray Kowalchuk
    Posted at 22:00h, 08 February Reply

    PART 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvhCnYvxQQ&t=37m58s

    Hayhoe: "By studying science we are studying what God was thinking when he created the universe." [God’s PLAN was in his perfect garden, where he told people to eat plants. – Ray]

    Hayhoe: "The only sensible response is reducing our own contribution, taking care of those that we can, and loving our neighbors as ourselves."

    "Of course God’s in control, but He has given us the freedom to make choices, and what we’re seeing here is, we’re seeing the consequence of the choices we’ve made."

    Hayhoe: What frustrates me and what actually makes me angry is not when people disagree with me. What makes me angry when I see people who know better deliberately lying about this issue."

    [Oh boy. – Ray]

    Andrew Farley: "You know, a thermometer is not a Republican; a thermometer is not a Democrat."

    PART 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvhCnYvxQQ&t=49m10s

    Carter [a Plainview, TX resident]: [Hayhoe] is certainly more credible to me than somebody like Al Gore (if we’re going to pick on Al Gore), but she has the same beliefs as I do, from a Christian-based deal."

    [Hayhoe is a Canadian from the city of Toronto; Al Gore is an evangelical Baptist from Tennessee who was raised on an Angus beef ranch. One of them identifies as vegan… – Ray]

    Hayhoe: "When I look at the information that we get from the planet, I look at it as God’s Creation speaking to us, and in this case there is no question that God’s Creation is telling us that it is running a fever."

    Nellie (former Cargill worker): "Things you were saying that we can do as far as taking some of that layer of blanket off…wow, I didn’t know that…If we start using the right things and doing the right things we can probably save our planet."

    [What did Hayhoe offer as solutions at the conclusion of her talk to the townsfolk of Plainsview, TX — what were the things she said that "we can do" to remove carbon? – Ray]

    Hayhoe: "Until we have policies in place to actually start curbing our carbon emissions and reducing the impact we’re having on our planet, I have to keep going."

    [Oh. "We" meant that the cattle ranchers and former Cargill workers of Northwest Texas can support (financially or in spirit) Katharine Hayhoe and her NGO buddies, the true heroes who will defeat climate change by fighting the government who will then develop the climate policies that will save the world. Our energy generation habits are the ones we have to stop, at the infrastructure level, so there is nothing specific for the non-activist citizen to do, except maybe pray.

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