I USUALLY spend my time writing about health and its close relationship to the food we eat. As a pharmacist, now retired, I feel qualified to do so. My extensive research has led me to believe there is far too much myth, misinformation, propaganda, corruption and downright lying in the dietary advice we receive from the NHS, the scientific community and the mainstream media. I am not a physicist and, therefore, rarely comment on what we are told about the climate. However, the media are now frequently claiming we need to stop eating meat to ‘save the planet’. When they use the climate as an excuse to alter diet, I feel compelled to comment.
Vested interests want us all on a plant-based diet and they are already using the ‘climate crisis’ as a weapon to persuade people to stop eating animal foods. Meat is humanity’s most nutritious food, and to support its benefits I need to explain why I think it is absurd to suggest ruminant animals cause global warming.
The climate is a complex, chaotic and multi-faceted system. It is affected by cloud cover, ocean currents, volcanic activity, jet stream variations and the output of the sun, among other things. The climate of Britain is temperate and remains so because it is surrounded by ocean, which keeps it cool in summer, and it remains mild in winter because of the Gulf Stream. According to the Central England Temperature Record, the average temperature for the entire month of January is 3 degrees centigrade. The average temperature for July is 17 degrees centigrade. In the six months from mid-winter to mid-summer the average temperature increases by 14 degrees, and over the next six months it falls by 14 degrees.
What causes this 14-degree shift in half a year? The answer, obviously, is the amount of sunshine falling upon the land. It is not the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and it is not the amount of methane belched by cows. It is energy from the sun. Other places on the same latitude as England, but without the tempering effect of a nearby ocean, suffer even greater swings of temperature every six months. Winnipeg in Manitoba, for instance, has an average January temperature of minus 16 degrees centigrade and an average July temperature of 19 degrees. The temperature in central Canada changes by 35 degrees every six months driven by the amount of sunshine it receives.
The IPCC and all the mainstream media want us to believe that an increase in average global temperatures of one and half degrees centigrade, over a period of many decades, has nothing to do with the sun but is entirely driven by an increase in the concentration of a trace gas known as CO2. How likely does that seem to you when CO2 has nothing to do with half-yearly swings in temperature of up to 35 degrees? How likely does it seem that a rise in global temperature of more than 1.5 degrees is going to be catastrophic for humanity?
Climate science is extremely complicated. It is too simplistic to suggest that a small increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2, which exists at only 400 parts per million, will to lead to an endless warming of the planet with terrible consequences. For an insight into how complicated the greenhouse effect is you may wish to read this paper by two of the best specialists in the world. Unless you are a physicist, it is difficult to understand. Scrolling through the pages should be enough to convince you that the digestive system of a cow is not the controlling factor of our planet’s climate. The conclusion of this enormous piece of work states that, at current concentrations, the warming effect of CO2 is ‘saturated’ and, therefore, adding more carbon dioxide to the air will make no appreciable difference.
The argument against cows is always based on methane, although methane lasts in the atmosphere for only about ten years before it is oxidised to CO2. The bacteria in the rumen of cows and sheep digest plants by fermentation and a by-product of this process is methane gas, which is produced at a rate of 5 per cent of the food eaten. Not forgetting, of course, all the carbon in the plants they eat was captured from the air during photosynthesis, and is, therefore, recycled, not added to the atmosphere. Methane is said to be a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 and laboratory tests suggest it is 23 times more effective at capturing heat. This is the main reason cited by most climate-based, anti-meat proponents. The important thing to remember is that these are laboratory results; they are not real measurements from the atmosphere. In a laboratory, gases are tested individually but in the atmosphere they are mixed with all the other gases.
Methane can absorb heat radiation in only a narrow band of wavelengths. Methane exists in the atmosphere as a rare trace gas with a concentration of less than two parts per million. Water vapour is by far the most important greenhouse gas. It absorbs heat over a wider range than other gases and exists in the atmosphere at 10,000 parts per million. This diagram shows the infra-red absorption spectrum of all the greenhouse gases.
The red lines denote the wavelengths at which methane, CH4, can absorb heat radiation. These specific wavelengths are already being absorbed by water vapour, H2O. Because water vapour is almost 10,000 times more concentrated in the atmosphere it absorbs almost all the heat at those specific wavelengths. Consequently, there is almost no heat for methane to absorb, and reducing it by avoiding meat (and having fewer cows) will make no difference whatsoever to the climate. A considerable reduction in meat consumption will, however, increase the chance of malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, which is something never mentioned by the anti-meat, climate alarmist disciples.