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When people talk about global warming and its causes, stereotypes are often used: frequent flyers, SUV drivers, etc. Technology and industrial development are the culprits, aren’t they? However, things are not that simple...

Emissions 2007 *



First the usual suspects: Emissions from air transport, although growing fast, amount to only about 3% of total global emissions. This corresponds to the emissions of the information and communication technologies – that is, the emissions of all computers and data centres worldwide. However, while few denounce the Internet, many condemn flying... The European Union added air transportation to its cap & trade system and set binding emission-reduction targets. At least something is being done to reduce these emissions.

The emissions the other means of transport are three times higher than that of airplanes, cars being the major emitents. However, the European Union has not been able to agree today on meaningful emission-reduction targets for motor vehicles. But at least people are aware of the problem...

Agriculture and Livestock
What people do not know or do not want to know is that our diet contributes massively to global warming.** According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations livestock is responsible for 9% of global emissions. A single dairy cow causes as much emissions in one year as a flight from Europe to Japan and back – or driving a car for 18,000 kilometres (11,000 miles)! ***

The problem is that the world population is growing steadily and so is meat and milk consumption. The FAO forecasts a doubling from 2000 to 2050: from 229 to 465 million tons of meat and from 580 to 1,043 million tons of milk.

Unfortunately there is no awareness of this problem. The Kyoto Protocol sets no targets for agriculture and livestock. Worse still, all countries participating in the Kyoto Protocol subsidize agriculture and livestock heavily.

Summing up
There are no “bad” and no “good” guys. Each person contributes to global warming and everyone has a responsibility to reduce emissions. Not only the frequent flyer or SUV drivers!  We must examine all aspects of daily life – mobility, nutrition, recreation, etc. – and accordingly reduce or compensate emissions.

Frequent flyers are just stereotypes – no more than scapegoats.

* Source: United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 (AR4), 2007.
The Fifth Assessment Report  (AR5) is due in 2014

** United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
[To the FAO website]
Site languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic

*** According to the United States Environment Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) a cow emits about 110 kg of methane per year. Since methane is 21 times more harmful than carbon, this corresponds to 2,300 kilograms of carbon.
[To the EPA’s website]
Site language: English


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