07 Feb PBS Airs Disinformation On Climate Solutions
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.