On rare occasions, new information reveals that publicly available information is merely a small fraction of what companies are doing behind closed doors. Newly released bankruptcy filings from Peabody Energy confirm these suggestions to the highest degree. Indeed, the documents show that Peabody funded an extensive network of climate contrarian organizations for years without any public scrutiny.
The Union of Concerned Scientists predicted that bankruptcy would force Peabody Energy to reveal previously undisclosed evidence of its ties to what academic researchers have dubbed the climate change counter-movement, and indeed it has. Here are some important details we’ve learned about Peabody’s role in undermining climate science and science-based policy efforts.
First, others at the Center for Media & Democracy and The Guardian recently found some documentation that suggests Peabody Energy’s network of climate contrarians may rival (and overlap with) those funded by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers.
These initial revelations generated sufficient attention to prompt this cagey response from Peabody Energy Vice President Vic Svec: “While we wouldn’t comment on alliances with particular organizations, Peabody has a track record of advancing responsible energy and environmental policies, and we support organizations that advocate sustainable mining, energy access and clean coal solutions, in line with our company’s leadership in these areas.”
Patrick Fitzgerald at the Wall Street Journal covered the bankruptcy filing connecting Peabody to the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), and passed a link to the publicly available document to my colleague Dave Anderson. We found new details on Peabody’s funding of a number of special interest groups involved in efforts to deceive the public and policy makers about the reality and risks of climate change, and to obstruct action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
We now know that from 2014 to 2015, at least $332,000 in “charitable gifts and contributions” was routed through a company subsidiary, Peabody Investment Corporation, to special interest groups involved in attacks on climate science and clean energy policies. We also now know that Peabody Investment Corp. doled out millions of dollars to law firms involved in attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (during the 90-day period before the company declared bankruptcy) in April 2016.
The amount and timing of these gifts raise further questions about Peabody Energy’s role in the climate change counter movement—questions we should expect any company that wants to be viewed as a responsible actor on climate change to answer.
Peabody Energy previously disclosed its 2014 and 2015 membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but did not disclose many specifics about its payments to ALEC. (As a nonprofit, ALEC does not have to disclose its donors, and companies don’t have to disclose indirect political contributions like those to ALEC.) We now know that Peabody Investment Corp. contributed at least $133,500 to ALEC over the two-year period, paid out over 11 installments.
Nearly half (5) of Peabody’s newly disclosed payments to ALEC occurred in July of 2014, the same month that Peabody Energy sponsored ALEC’s annual meeting in Dallas. At the meeting, ALEC hosted misleading presentations by representatives of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and the Heartland Institute, who sought to deceive the state legislators in attendance about the reality and risks of climate change. The legislators were then urged to introduce ALEC’s “model policies” aimed at rolling back clean energy policies back home.
Michael Blank, director of state government relations for Peabody Energy, is currently listed as a member of ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council, where he serves along with representatives from ExxonMobil and Koch Public Sector, LLC. ALEC remains at the forefront of attacks on the EPA’s efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants via the Clean Power Plan.
Another $25,000 in previously unknown Peabody Investment Corp. payments went to the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). Harry Alford, president and CEO of the NBCC, has falsely claimed that, “… there is no sound science to support the claims of Global Warming.” Alford has previously acknowledged that his group has received funding from other fossil fuel interests, including $1 million from ExxonMobil and sponsorships from Chevron and Koch Industries.
In June of 2015, Peabody contributed $10,000 to the NBCC. That same month, the NBCC released a report that ostensibly examined the “Potential Impact of Proposed EPA Regulations on Low Income Groups and Minorities”—an attack on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan that raised a lot of eyebrows in communities of color last summer. The NBCC commissioned Roger Bezdek, a consultant with Management Information Services, Inc. (whose client list includes Peabody Energy), to write the report. Peabody Energy then promoted the NBCC report on its public relations website, AdvancedEnergyForLife.com, and Alford later provided congressional testimony on the report before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Ted Cruz.
The NBCC’s attacks on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan have since been thoroughly debunked by UCS and other experts, and refuted by leading members of the African-American community.
Peabody Investment Corp. made $50,000 in previously undisclosed payments to CFACT over the same two-year period. CFACT is responsible for the climate contrarian website, ClimateDepot.org. Marc Morano, CFACT’s director of communications, has suggested that climate scientists “deserve to be publicly flogged.”
One $5,000 Peabody gift to CFACT was made in August of 2014, shortly after the group’s misrepresentation of climate science at ALEC’s annual meeting in Dallas. Another occurred in November of 2015, when CFACT announced that the world premiere of its new climate denial film, Climate Hustle, would take place in Paris, timed to coincide with the historic international climate change negotiations that took place there.
Peabody Investment Corp. also disclosed gifts to several of the other organizations mentioned in the earlier reporting, including the Energy & Environment Legal Institute ($8,500)—a firm known for its harassment of climate scientists through open records requests, Franklin Center for Public Integrity ($10,000), Independence Institute ($15,000), Institute for Energy Research ($50,000), Texas Public Policy Foundation ($40,000).
Others have pointed to bankruptcy filings suggesting that Peabody Energy plans to continue making payments to lawyers involved in litigation aimed at derailing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
Peabody filed for bankruptcy in April 2016. The document we reviewed lists $2,943,360 in previously undisclosed 2016 payments that Peabody Investment Corp. made to one such law firm—Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP—in the 90 days before Peabody Energy and its many subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy.
It is worth noting here that as Peabody lays off workers and ignores calls for the company to take responsibility for its water and land pollution, more payments to the same lawyers fighting the Clean Power Plan are planned. In addition, the name of the same law firm appeared on Peabody Energy’s 2014 Clean Power Plan comments (which included an unhealthy dose of climate denial).
I’m certain we will see more evidence accumulate and more questions emerge as Peabody Energy’s bankruptcy filings continue to pile up.
Aside from the sheer amount of money Peabody devoted to climate denial, what shocks me most about the bankruptcy filings is how much we didn’t know without them. A startling lack of transparency surrounds corporate political activities, and these documents prove it.
In 2012, I conducted an analysis on climate-related political activities of 28 companies, including Peabody Energy. I looked at Peabody’s direct lobbying and political contributions, its public comments to government agencies and its public statements, but I couldn’t link it to ALEC, CFACT, NBCC, or any of the other entities discussed above. There was no public evidence of it.
What I did learn from that analysis is that companies’ public statements on climate change don’t always align with their activities behind the scenes. Most of the scrutinized companies—including Peabody—made some climate-action-supporting statements but many also funded contrarian trade groups, think tanks, and other third-party organizations.
Without further transparency in corporate political activities, we are left to wonder what other companies might be involved in the funding of climate contrarian organizations. Legal proceedings like bankruptcy filings are one of the few tools to bring such political activities to light. We need better disclosure policies (which could be achieved through the president, Congress, or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission), but until then, we can trust that more companies are engaged on climate science and policy development, if without the public’s knowledge.
Correction (June 30, 2016): An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the amount of money given to the Texas Public Policy Foundation. It is $40,000, not $45,000.
Tomorrow’s agreement (full details yet to be released) between Canada, Mexico and the US shows the type of leadership we need to build on the momentum created by the Paris Agreement. The goal of getting half the continent’s electricity from “clean energy” by 2025 is well within reach—and eminently affordable given the sharply falling costs of solar and wind energy and projections for continued price declines. In addition, smart investments in transmission can help integrate the continent’s electricity markets more closely while helping to bring on line even more clean, reliable and affordable energy.
For the purposes of this announcement, “clean energy” sources include wind, solar, hydro and other types of renewable energy; nuclear power; fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage; and energy efficiency. It is more apt to call nuclear power and coal and natural gas with CCS low-carbon or zero-carbon energy sources. Nuclear power comes with issues related to safety, radioactive waste disposal and uranium mining wastes, and there is pollution associated with production, transportation and use of coal and natural gas with CCS.
The US, Canada and Mexico are well-positioned to meet the 50 percent clean energy goal by 2025, but it will require robust implementation of current policies and some new ones.
According to EIA data, in 2015 renewable energy (including hydropower) accounted for 13 percent of US power generation, and carbon-free sources provided about 33 percent of US electricity generation. As the largest economy and biggest consumer of electricity among the three countries, progress on renewable energy in the US can go a long way toward meeting the continent-wide goals.
A recent UCS analysis shows that, with the Clean Power Plan and the recent extensions of the federal renewable energy tax credits, the US can get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy (hydro plus non-hydro) by 2025. Adding nuclear power would bring the US total for carbon-free electricity to nearly 46 percent by 2025. In our analysis of the Clean Power Plan, we assumed all states adopt the EPA’s mass-based targets with a “new source complement” and achieve compliance via a nationwide carbon trading program. We also assumed that all states, as part of their compliance strategy, invest in energy efficiency at a level that achieves a reduction in electricity sales of at least 1 percent per year from 2022 to 2030.
For comparison, EIA’s examination of the Clean Power Plan and federal tax credits (the AEO 2016 reference case) estimates that the US would reach 41 percent clean energy by 2025. Depending on how energy efficiency is credited under the proposal to be announced tomorrow the “clean energy” share from the UCS and EIA analyses could be even higher.
Meanwhile, Canada already gets about 80 percent of its power from carbon-free sources, including approximately 60 percent from hydropower and 16 percent from nuclear power. The province of Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to completely eliminate coal-fired generation.
Mexico currently gets about a quarter of its electricity from clean generation. The 2015 Ley de Transición Energética (or Energy Transition Law) sets a goal of generating 35 percent of Mexico’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2024.
Together, the US, Canada and Mexico currently get approximately 37 percent of their generation from clean energy sources. With current policies in place, the three countries are projected to get 45 to 49 percent clean energy by 2025, depending on whether the UCS or EIA reference case projections are used for the US. Clearly, some additional policy action will be required—for example through new sub-national or national policies—but it is not a big stretch. With the costs of renewable energy falling rapidly, there’s no reason to shortchange the opportunity to go further.
Canada, Mexico and the US are also members of Mission Innovation, an international initiative of countries that have all committed to doubling their public investments in clean energy research and development over five years. Together with business initiatives, such as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the landscape for clean energy R&D is only getting brighter.
Nevertheless, we can’t take this progress for granted. For example, delivering on the US commitments will require that the Clean Power Plan, which is currently under a legal stay, moves ahead in a robust way, prioritizing renewable energy and energy efficiency as compliance options. Low natural gas prices could also thwart progress on renewable energy. Any erosion of state and federal policy incentives could also deal a blow to meeting those targets.
Enacting new or additional federal and state clean energy policies could help us greatly exceed these targets, and do so cost effectively, but we need Congress and state governments to act!
The commitment to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is also critical as these emissions are on the rise globally. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, although it is shorter-lived in the atmosphere. In the US, these emissions are increasing as natural gas production reaches all-time highs (mainly due to increased reliance on natural gas for power generation) and extraction of tight oil increases. Mexico and Canada also have significant methane emissions from their oil and gas operations.
Research shows that cost-effective opportunities to cut these emissions exist in all three countries. By taking steps jointly, they can help ensure that standards and best practices are harmonized across the North American continent.
The next US administration and the new Congress will play a critical role in delivering on the clean energy goals announced today, as well as more ambitious commitments in the years to come. The world and our North American neighbors will be counting on our continued climate leadership.
And while we’re thinking big, here’s to hoping that one of the next breakthrough moments for climate action is a North American carbon pricing initiative, building on the success of existing state and provincial programs in the US and Canada and Mexico’s carbon tax.]]>
Oil is the largest source of global warming pollution in the United States, and tailpipe pollution from gasoline-powered cars and diesel trucks is its most concrete manifestation. But even before these fuels are delivered to the gas station, a great deal of damage has already been done.
The carbon dioxide, methane, and other global warming pollution coming from oil wells and refineries in the oil supply chain is larger than the emissions from all the jet fuel used in the United States. Moreover, much of this pollution is unnecessary, and can be readily reduced using existing technology.
This is low hanging fruit compared to replacing all the 737s with planes like the Solar Impulse that just crossed the Atlantic on solar power. But before we can hold the oil industry accountable to cut the hidden pollution on the other side of the gas pump, we need to illuminate the extent of the problem.
A recent report from the Center for American Progress catalogs The Who’s Who of Methane Pollution in the Onshore Oil and Gas Production Sector. The top 5 are ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, EOG Resources Inc., and BP America.
Some of these names are familiar as major oil companies, and others are better known as gas companies, but these days the separation between oil and gas industries has all but vanished. With the rise of fracking, oil and gas comes from the same companies, and often from the same wells. Indeed, recently the trade associations representing these two companies merged. But regardless of what share of their product mix goes into cars versus power plants, methane pollution is a major climate pollutant, and the oil and gas industry has to be held accountable to curtail its wasteful and polluting practices.
EPA recently finalized regulations for new sources of methane in the oil and gas industry and is beginning to collect information on methane emissions from the existing operations, to develop appropriate regulations for this damaging global warming pollutant. Right now it’s clear we still have a lot to learn about exactly how large these emissions are. The CAP report is based on EPA reporting that captures just about half of the methane pollution from the industry. Improving accountability of polluters to measure and report their pollution is an essential foundation for policies to address climate change.
While cutting methane pollution from oil and gas industry is an essential near term action, it’s only the tip of the iceberg where oil industry pollution is concerned. An important new report “A Smart Tax: Pricing Oil for a Safe Climate” by Deborah Gordon and Jessica Tuchman Mathews at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace takes a broader view of the complex and challenging oil supply chain. They explain that different types of oil have dramatically different emissions. Figure 2 provides a useful contrast of some different US sources of crude.
Some oils are extracted without unnecessary pollution and are relatively easy to refine, with the result that more than 90% of their pollution comes from using the final fuels like gasoline and diesel. Other heavier oils are more energy intensive to extract and refine, and can create 75% more pollution per barrel of oil than the lighter crude.
For these more challenging oils, tailpipe pollution accounts for less than 2/3 of the total pollution, so pollution reduction policies that target only emissions from fuel use will fail to account for a lot of the emissions, which is not good policy.
The oil market is complex, with highly variable sources of crude, different extraction and refining techniques, and complex markets for a variety of products. Gordon and Mathews argue that a well-designed “Smart Tax” that is based on a comprehensive lifecycle assessment of the oil supply chain can align the interests of energy producers with the need to cut carbon pollution, stimulating innovation and avoiding perverse incentives. They walk through key implementation details including why refineries are the best point of regulation and the implications for global oil trade. But the first order of business is better information.
The starting point for smart policies that hold the oil industry to account is better information about pollution from the oil supply chain. Gordon and Mathews lay out a compelling case for a tax policy approach, but regardless of whether the policy instrument is the pollution tax economics textbooks favor, a broad performance standard approach like the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or a more narrowly focused performance standard like the methane rules being developed by EPA, good policy must be based on good information. The current information the government collects on pollution from the oil supply chain is scattered and incomplete.
The Energy Information Administration was founded in the 1970s with a charter focused on ensuring reliable access to the energy our economy needed. But where the future of clean transportation is concerned, producing enough gasoline to fuel our cars is no longer the most pressing problem. Instead we need to maintain and improve everyone’s access to mobility while also preserving climate stability. Achieving this goal will require collection, dissemination, and analysis of different information on our fuels by all the stakeholders inside and outside of government. These two reports point us in that direction.]]>
The book paints a picture of a better beef system, less damaging to the climate and the environment generally than the current system is. This is a vision I applaud, and one that my colleagues in the UCS Food and Environment program are researching. However, the book also raises scientific issues that I feel are worth exploring, since the dominant beef production system we have in place today, both globally and domestically, has some real problems.
As in the previous review, my focus will be on beef’s effect on the climate, which is the part of the subject that I know best. But I should mention that Hahn Niman’s book covers several other aspects—e.g. water, biodiversity, overgrazing, and especially health and nutrition. These are certainly concerns of mine and also aspects on which several of my UCS colleagues are working.
Chapter 1 of the book is titled “The Climate Change Case against Cattle: Sorting Fact from Fiction,” and it responds to a pattern that scientists have repeatedly found—that the climate footprint of beef is much larger than for nearly every other food, including other kinds of meat. This is not only the case globally, but for the United States as well. Thus, cattle are by far the largest source of U.S. emissions from agriculture, as shown by the graph below:
Hahn Niman doesn’t defend the current agricultural system that is producing these levels of emissions. However she focuses her critique on the 2006 FAO report Livestock’s Long Shadow and its estimate that 18% of global emissions are due to livestock, a large majority of which is due to beef. This is despite the more recent scientific studies that have confirmed and reinforced its basic conclusions, with only small changes in the percentage. These changes have come about because newer data became available and, importantly, because fossil fuel emissions—the major component of the denominator of the percentage—have grown. Thus, a decade later, the overall story of Livestock’s Long Shadow has been confirmed and extended by more evidence.
Two of Hahn Niman’s most important points concern the relevance of deforestation caused by livestock to Americans, and failing to consider the “offsetting” of beef’s emissions by the sequestration of soil carbon. So let’s consider those in turn.
Hahn Niman says that when considering the climate impact of beef, “including deforestation from developing countries … is unfair and unreasonable” (page 45). She claims that “I’ve shown that American beef has virtually no connection to deforestation emissions” (page 23). Thus, the issue with U.S. beef seems to be whether deforestation, an important source of global warming pollution (about 10% of the global total, by recent estimates) has anything to do with the U.S. While this is true of US beef production, it misses the important point that American beef is part of a global market and US beef consumption does play a role in deforestation:
Four relevant points:
1) While the majority of beef consumption in the U.S. is produced domestically, we most definitely import appreciable quantities from tropical forest countries.
2) That is because the beef market is now clearly a global one, in which increased consumption in any country, including the U.S., raises total demand and thus drives up world prices. And higher beef prices have been shown to lead to more deforestation. The U.S. is the world’s leading consumer of beef—24.1 billion pounds in 2014, according to the USDA.
3) U.S. companies are an important part of the global beef trade, as explained in UCS’ recently updated web pages on the drivers of deforestation today. This gives Americans an opportunity as well as a responsibility. We can let our corporations know that we want them to act to eliminate beef-driven deforestation from their supply chains—not just those in the U.S. but everywhere in the world—just as we have done with deforestation driven by palm oil.
4) Finally—and this is a criticism of our political leaders, not of Hahn Niman’s argument—we already have a long and sad experience of refusal to act on climate change, using the excuse that other countries are equally or more guilty than we are and therefore have to act first. This applies to all the causes of global warming—including deforestation.
A substantial part of Hahn Niman’s argument on the potential for carbon sequestration in pastures—11 pages—is based on the theories of Alan Savory, the former Zimbabwean rancher now famous for his TED talk. There have been detailed and extensive critiques of Savory’s arguments, both on the web and in scientific journals, so I won’t repeat all their points here. But just add one that to me is quite telling: after many years of controversy, Savory still has not published his studies on carbon sequestration in peer-reviewed scientific journals or made his data available publicly so that other researchers can assess it. This is particularly important since he is claiming to have made such a striking discovery. This omission alone weakens his case—and thus Hahn Niman’s use of his theories—very significantly.
What about carbon sequestration more broadly? Hahn Niman argues that it “may be more than enough to completely offset the emissions from grazing animals.” (page 45). How much evidence is there for this?
Zhongmin Hu and colleagues, in a 2016 article in Global Change Biology, reviewed experiments excluding grazing animals from grasslands at 51 different sites in China. They found that grazing exclusion led to an increase in carbon, both in the soil and in the vegetation, at most of the sites. In other words, they found that the carbon stock was higher without the grazers. This is in the opposite direction of the kind of effect that Hahn Niman’s “offsetting” argument assumes.
The same result—an effect on ecosystem carbon, but in the wrong direction for the hypothesis, comes from a large review of biomass and carbon recovery at 45 sites, with about 1500 total plots, in the New World tropics. In this study by Lourens Poorter and colleagues, both pastures from which cattle had been removed and abandoned agricultural fields showed substantial increases in biomass and carbon stock, with the annual rate of increase in carbon averaging 3.05 tons per hectare (1.23 tons per acre). There was no significant difference between former fields and former pastures in the rate of recovery of carbon.
So, the existing evidence doesn’t show that the difference in sequestration with and without cattle leads to a net carbon sink. Also, it remains unclear to what degree the total direct emissions from animals (ruminant methane, manure, etc.) and indirect ones (e.g. deforestation, fertilizer used to produce feed grains, etc.) could be offset through best management practices (e.g., by soil carbon sequestration in grasslands, avoided conversion to rangelands, avoiding chemical fertilizers, etc.)
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be working hard to increase soil sequestration in pastures, as well as under agricultural fields. And indeed, there have been some promising results in this kind of research. For example, Teague et al. recently proposed a set of scenarios for North American beef production, involving reduced soil erosion through conservation cropping and “adaptive multipaddock grazing” (AMP), under which net emissions could be decreased significantly Likewise, I have colleagues at UCS modeling various agricultural scenarios that will add to our knowledge on this question. But for now, whether or not beef production could ever become carbon neutral is far from settled science.
While I state at the outset that Hahn Niman does not defend current beef production practices, it is instructive to look at the current situation. Beef’s much higher emissions are associated with much more use of water and much more need for land. The figure below, from a recent review by Raganathan et al. published in a chapter in IFPRI’s annual report and also as a separate report from the World Resources Institute, shows the size of these differences.
Changing what we eat is one of the steps that we can take to confront this challenge, but it is not “the solution.” This is not only because emissions related to beef, although significant, are still considerably less than those from fossil fuels. It’s also because the necessary transformation of diets needs to recognize that the consumption of foods from high-emissions, ecologically inefficient production systems varies enormously between countries. It’s in the Americas—both North and South—and to a lesser extent in Russia and Europe that beef consumption rates are highest, and thus where emissions could be cut the most by diet changes.
A final point, is that this is a matter of reducing emissions, not an all-or-nothing question of morality. Personally, I have tried to reduce my emissions over the past decade by making changes such as driving a hybrid car, using public transport whenever possible, and changing our home’s electricity supplier to one that provides 100% renewable energy. These reduce my carbon footprint, but they don’t make it zero. Similarly, I now eat beef less frequently and in smaller amounts, but I haven’t eliminated it from my diet entirely.
There’s a real irony in this, because Nicolette Hahn Niman doesn’t eat beef—in fact, she doesn’t eat meat at all. She explains (page 184) that having given up meat in earlier years when she became a vegetarian, “to date I simply have not had the urge to eat it. If I ever regain the desire to eat meat, I will.”
So, a defender of beef doesn’t eat it, while this critic of it does. I don’t see this as making either of us more ethical than the other. But I do admit that it very likely means that my emissions from what I eat are probably larger than hers.
In my final review of this series on the book Cowed, I’ll consider how we can move towards reducing such emissions, but will also argue that beef consumption should continue, although at a lower level in many countries, including the U.S. Here I have looked at data showing the impact of removing grazing, because it’s a key test of the offsetting hypothesis, not because that’s my policy recommendation. Testing a hypothesis is one thing, and science gives us some a basic method for how to do it. But using that method—comparing “with” and “without”—is quite different from considering how to change beef production and consumption systems in the future.
What’s most important, though, is not just changing our individual carbon footprints, but doing things to change the overall emissions and sequestration of the whole planet. For example, if we could get American companies to insist that the beef and other products that they source from the tropics are deforestation-free, it would have much more impact than simply reducing our own consumption. These kinds of changes will help move our global society towards ways of eating, ways of farming and ranching, and ways of living, that will create a better future for those with whom we share the Earth.]]>
Sometimes that is a good thing, particularly when we see water utilities meeting and exceeding Governor Brown’s call for 25 percent water conservation. In other cases, pursuing new, “drought-proof” water supplies can have unintended consequences. Drought-proof supplies, while helping respond to climate change, often require more energy than conventional drinking water sources (see Figure 1 from Clean Energy Opportunities in California’s Water Sector).
For example, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest of its kind in the U.S., was recently completed and provides San Diego County Water Authority with additional drought-proof water supplies, but those supplies have a large energy footprint, requiring around 750 MW per day.
The developers of the desalination plant only committed to sourcing 30 percent of the energy powering the plant from renewables and, therefore, the remainder is likely reliant on fossil fuels. Burning more fossil fuels to adapt to a changing climate is an example of “maladaptation” or actions taken to address climate risks that actually create, perpetuate, or exacerbate climate change.
The water sector is at a crossroads: it can be part of the climate problem or part of the climate solution.
A decade ago, the California Energy Commission concluded that nearly 20 percent of California’s electricity was used by California’s water sector. It is likely that during this prolonged drought, the water sector’s electricity consumption has risen due to increased groundwater pumping (more than half of water consumed in 2015 came from underground) and increased water treatment. Depending on where water utilities are getting electricity, they could be contributing to more global warming pollution.
The difficulty for decision-makers is that many water and wastewater utilities do not track or disclose electricity use, generation sources, and related global warming emissions. Water utilities that are also retail electricity providers must disclose this information because they are required by law to source 50 percent of their retail electricity from renewables by 2030. But the water utilities that do not also sell electricity have no such requirement. This missing data makes it difficult to identify clean energy opportunities.
Fortunately, a bill introduced by Senator Fran Pavley this year (SB 1425) addresses this challenge by creating a voluntary emissions tracking system for projects that reduce the carbon intensity of California’s water system. This new registry will allow for water agencies, large water consumers, businesses and others to voluntarily measure and track their heat-trapping emissions from water pumping, transport, delivery, and heating.
There is great potential within the water sector to reduce its electricity use and associated emissions. Because many water and wastewater utilities have significant electricity purchasing power and own assets and infrastructure that could host renewable generation facilities or provide flexibility for the electricity grid, they are in a unique position to help the state meet (and surpass) its clean energy goals.
The Sonoma County Water Agency began delivering “carbon-free” water last year and a number of other water utilities are close behind, finding ways to power their operations using clean, renewable sources of electricity, and hosting generation projects for other clean energy purchasers. This is good for the state as it can help meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals. It is also good for water customers since clean electricity locks in a consistent price, which protects against fossil-fuel price volatility.
As the state moves toward its new goal of sourcing 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, investing in clean energy solutions has never made more sense.
“There was good overnight humidity recovery in the fire area last night, which will delay the burn period today. However, as temperatures warm and vegetation dries out, pockets of heat may become more active in the afternoon.”
These excerpts from the incident reports of the Sherpa Fire in California and the Dog Head Fire in New Mexico, respectively, highlight the relationships between weather and wildfires. Over the past few decades, climate change has driven an inexorable trend of higher summer temperatures across the West—a trend that is expected to continue for years to come. This year, some states may see relief if the El Niño pattern shifts rapidly to La Niña—and if Congress passes legislation that provides sufficient resources to manage wildfire risk effectively.
Temperatures on Father’s Day tied the record high temperature of 103 degrees in Albuquerque, New Mexico, further contributing to the heat fueling the Dog Head Fire raging nearby, and making conditions miserable for firefighters.
With the fire exceeding 17,000 acres and only 9 percent contained, Governor Martinez declared a state of emergency and mobilized the National Guard. Fortunately, on Monday, weather conditions began to change, with higher humidity moving into the area, bringing peak temperatures down into the upper 90s (!) and allowing firefighters to improve their fire lines. But this was cold comfort to the owners of the two dozen homes that had already been lost to this fire.
Meanwhile, another fire was blazing near Santa Barbara, California—the Sherpa Fire. By Monday, it had burned nearly 8,000 acres and was more than 50 percent contained. More than 1,200 firefighters worked night and day, preparing to defend fire lines in the midst of an excessive heat warning, with maximum temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. “Sundowner” winds were expected to blow from the Santa Ynez Mountains at speeds up to 40 miles per hour in the evening, potentially fanning the flames overnight. Already several communities had been evacuated, and Highway 101 had been closed at times.
These were just two of the 16 active fires burning over the weekend, which had consumed a total of nearly 100,000 acres. The problem is not limited to the West – brushfires in Florida closed a major highway early in the week – but the Western states are where we’ve seen the most fires breaking out. And the wildfire season is just getting started, and might be worsened by the climate phenomena known as El Niño and La Niña.
I’m often asked how El Niño and La Niña affect wildfires in the West, and the answer is complicated.
On top of the rising temperature trend driven by climate change, we have other patterns that affect global temperatures. El Niño and La Niña (“the boy” and “the girl” in Spanish, respectively) are used to describe a pattern of global climate conditions that tend to alternate every few years.
Among other features, El Niño is characterized by warmer-than-normal water in the eastern Pacific, which tends to bring more moisture and precipitation to the southwestern US and leaves the northern tier of states hot and dry. In contrast, La Niña exhibits cooler waters in the eastern Pacific, leading to drier conditions in the Southwest, while wetter conditions prevail in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Intermountain West.
Last year we were in the midst of a powerful El Niño—possibly the strongest measured since 1950. And, as we would expect, the Northwest was abnormally hot and dry, setting the stage for a record-breaking wildfire year, with over 10 million acres burned in the US.
The effects of El Niño lingered through the spring in most places, bringing record heat to the Southwest, but failed to provide much-needed moisture to southern states, including California, Arizona, and New Mexico. As a result, southern California is still suffering through an extreme drought, estimated to be affecting more than 33 million people. It should come as no surprise, then, to see wildfires breaking out in the hottest, driest areas.
Climate scientists are now saying there is a strong likelihood that the El Niño conditions could rapidly flip to La Niña conditions by autumn. If La Niña follows its usual pattern, it may bring some relief to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and the northern Intermountain states.
Unfortunately, it could also exacerbate the dry conditions in the Southwest, prolonging the drought in California and potentially expanding it to other states. On top of the drought, if the record-breaking heat of June is a sign of a hot summer to come, we could see another extraordinary fire season—putting many communities at risk and stretching our capacity to cope.
Policy makers have taken notice of the situation, and some are working to help us become better prepared for wildfire risks. It’s a complex problem to solve, with several factors involved.
First, decades of fire suppression have led to a buildup of flammable materials—living and dead trees, litter, grasses, etc.—in many areas, and these materials act as tinder once a fire starts.
Second, the warmer and drier conditions have spurred a wave of tree mortality in Western forests, accelerated by climate change, leaving dead trees that are vulnerable to fire.
Third, more people have moved into forested areas, putting themselves and their property in harm’s way, and making fire suppression more costly because firefighters spend more time and effort protecting developed areas.
And fourth, we have climate change itself creating conditions that increase the likelihood and extent of wildfire.
The Forest Service, which is responsible for managing 193 million acres of public land, primarily in the West, has been grappling with this problem as it unfolds. Administrators have recognized that recent fire seasons are regularly breaking their budgets, perversely forcing them to take money budgeted for fire risk reduction activities and use it for fire suppression instead.
After a collective face palm, Congress began to put together legislation aimed at fixing this problem. The latest bipartisan draft legislation in the Senate is called the Wildfire Budgeting, Response, and Forest Management Act of 2016. A hearing on the draft legislation is expected in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday, June 23. The hearing is organized around two panels of witnesses, representing a range of government, private sector, and civil society viewpoints. It should be an informative discussion.
Regardless of whether this legislation moves forward or not, the wildfire problem is not going away.
Year by year, the factors contributing to wildfire risk continue to increase—with climate change potentially becoming the most important factor of all.
Hopefully Congress will pass legislation that can help us get a better handle on fire-fighting and land management to control the risk of wildfires for the next few years. Maybe some of us will get a break from La Niña or some other short-lived phenomenon. But ultimately these fixes will be temporary, unless we can stop the inexorable rise in global temperatures by reducing our emissions of heat-trapping gases. And on that point, Congress has yet to take any serious action.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just released its numbers for global May temperature, which show that yes, it was another record warm month, the 13th in a row. NOAA measured May at 0.87⁰C (1.57⁰F) above the average global May temperatures in the 20th century, a “very large value” according to the agency, and named it the highest ever for the period of 1880-2016. Even though this value is slightly below the unprecedented high values of the past few months (since October 2015 all records were by more than 1⁰C above average), it is still significant.
The record warm temperatures have been driven mainly by warm sea surface temperatures, which surely got a heat booster from the El Niño that is currently in demise.
El Niño is characterized by warmer-than-usual ocean waters in the eastern Pacific, and the one this year was a whopper. The atmosphere is warmed from below, and oceans contribute to warming through convection (the water vapor above it) and conduction: the exchange of heat between the surface of the ocean and the air above it. The latter played a big role in the recent warming records, according to NOAA, who called this type of exchange “a much simpler method” of heat exchange.
Because ocean water takes longer to cool off, there is still quite a bit of heat there to keep contributing to future records—a cool off is expected, but with a lag of a few months. The possibility of a La Niña starting this fall (currently forecasted as having a 70% chance of occurring) could add to the much-welcome ocean cooling.
But regardless, the impacts of the past record warm months are being felt not only through a multitude of extreme events (such as wildfires) that were made more likely or more intense by global warming, but also on a much more subtle, and frequently unnoticed way.
But back to Miami. I was there for the US Climate Action Network (USCAN) annual conference, where we discussed issues related to climate change, and strategized actions to address them. The temperature was decidedly a few degrees higher due to the energy in the room—and on the street. We staged a rally for climate justice and action on climate by the local authorities.
Climate justice is about giving everyone equal treatment and equal opportunities to face the challenges of climate change, and leaving nobody behind.
It has an ethical component in addition to a political and environmental one, especially because the communities that suffer the brunt of climate change are the least responsible for it (such as much of the global south).
The Union of Concerned Scientists has been working in Miami and other locations to further climate justice and engage disadvantaged citizens in the climate movement. We are providing scientific support to equip and empower local experts to bring their issues to the table with local authorities, and demand accountability and transparency. We have also been working to define resilience principles that highlight support for equitable outcomes and ensure that resources are allocated for all.
Miami-Dade county is predicted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see an increase of one foot in sea level by about 2040, and while it has done much to increase resilience and protect itself against the threat of sea level rise, it has not done it consistently across its socioeconomic scale.
In fact, many of the disadvantaged, predominantly black and Spanish-speaking communities, have been left behind not only in the county resilience efforts, but on the information side. For example, many residents who see “sunny day flooding,” where there is no precipitation but instead the flood is caused by sea water coming up through the drains, are not aware that it is due to sea level rise and the fact that the old, gravity-based drainage system is acting as a conduit for sea water to actually come into their neighborhoods.
When that happens, according to interviews conducted by UCS, children cannot make it to the school bus, people cannot go to work, and their lives are severely disrupted. It is important that their plight is brought to the attention of authorities, and that resilience efforts are planned and carried.
The average global temperature across land and sea for the year to date is also a record, having broken the previous January-May record of 2015 by 0.24⁰C (0.43⁰F). It sure looks like 2016 could be another record warm year. The jury is still out but because 2016 had a good head start with the record warm first five months, and because the oceans are still very warm, there is a good chance that it can be nominally a record warm year—meaning values could be above 2015 but not by a huge amount or not because of a consistently warm streak across all months. Still, global warming continues, and its impacts and consequences are not far behind—in fact, as stated above, many are already here.
Climate action is essential to ensure a future with less climate impacts, less warming, and more equity. Transitioning to renewables and steeply reducing emissions from coal, gas, and oil are the main strategies for change, and information is the vehicle for this change.]]>
The fossil fuel companies that have supported and promoted fraudulent science for years have been exposed, too, and are now at a crossroads. The Wizard changed his ways and became a hero. Will these companies do the same? It doesn’t look like it.
In addition to selling oil and coal, these companies have been selling climate denial and funding disinformation about science and clean energy to perpetuate a market for their products, which they have long known were causing dangerous levels of warming that is now resulting in sea level rise, extreme precipitation, heat and more intense storms.
As UCS, investigative journalists, history scholars, nongovernmental organizations, and the chief law enforcement officials in several states unearth damning evidence of the massive climate science deception campaign developed by fossil energy companies, a well-coordinated counter-offensive is unfolding before our eyes.
Behind the smoke, mirrors and hot air, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy have been the wizards of the fossil fuel industry. They have been orchestrating a climate denial machine for decades.
The release of Peabody bankruptcy documents yesterday gives some insight into the vast denial network. Bankruptcy has forced Peabody to disclose its funding of many of the same agents of climate disinformation that ExxonMobil backed over the years. For example, Peabody’s bankruptcy filings list Arthur G. Randol III as a creditor. Randol is a former ExxonMobil operative who, in 1998, contributed to the development of the American Petroleum Institute’s plan to manufacture uncertainty about climate science and make climate change a “non-issue.” In more recent years, Randol has played a role in industry attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency’s science-based endangerment finding for heat-trapping emissions and the Clean Power Plan.
As that machine—and indeed the entire business model of the fossil fuel industry begins to crumble—companies like ExxonMobil are now hiding behind political allies to assert bogus First Amendment claims, help squelch investigations, and attempt to intimidate advocates.
What does tomorrow hold? It’s hard to tell. The targets of Rep. Smith’s investigation declined to respond to his requests citing his lack of jurisdiction and the violation of our First Amendment rights. But Rep. Smith has demonstrated his willingness to use the subpoena power of his office, so it is likely that we have not reached the end of this particular yellow brick road.
We often look to the parallels with the tobacco industry’s tactics to give us some insights into what to expect next from the fossil fuel industry. What we are learning now is that, while there are similarities, the fossil fuel industry is writing a whole new playbook.
And it is not likely to end with the Wizard sending us safely into the future in a low carbon hot-air balloon.]]>
I used to not pay as much attention to extreme heat until one dangerous day in July. A medical practitioner was collecting a small blood sample for a portable testing device and asked me: do you have ringing in your ears? With sweat pouring into my eyes—and a pounding headache slowing my thinking—I wearily answered yes.
The results of the tests were sobering. I drank too much water without consuming enough potassium and other electrolytes. I was water-logged, my potassium levels were too low, my core temperature was raised to unhealthy levels, and we were told to recover by sitting in a cool pool of water siphoned off a tributary to the Colorado River.
The medical practitioner had asked a group of us who had hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in July to participate in a survey about heat and health risk. The study was a follow-on to a similar study of marathon runners. At the time, the medical researcher reported finding that female marathon runners lost their potassium during exercise at far higher rates than men. She said women were not being adequately supplied because most common drinks with electrolytes don’t have enough potassium for woman athletes.
The advice given was to eat bananas and raisins to make up for this deficit. Since then I have learned even more about extreme heat while working on projects with Jalonne White-Newsome and other scientists who research the public health implications of extreme heat in a warming world.
Here is my top 10 list for ways to protect yourself, family, pets, and neighbors from extreme heat:
I have a souvenir from that day in July—a photograph we took near the place where we gave samples to participate in that heat stress study at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It is of a large outdoor thermometer (not shaded) that was pegged at the maximum level (140 degrees Fahrenheit).
We decided to hike out of the Canyon starting at night. That was another step in changing my behavior to better adapt to the extreme heat that day and the many hot days since. The moonlit trail was beautiful during that night hike, helping keep my mind distracted from aching calf muscles.]]>
According to Cowspiracy, the major source of global warming pollution isn’t fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, as the world’s scientists are telling us. No, it’s animal agriculture—not just eating cows, but all other kinds of meat, and eggs and milk and fish too. So the principal solution to global warming isn’t renewable energy. It’s for everyone to become a vegan.
Central to Cowspiracy’s conspiracy theory is the supposed “fact” that a 2009 study found that 51% of all greenhouse gases are produced by animal agriculture.
A good deal of the movie is taken up with interviews with people from environmental organizations, such as the Rainforest Action Network, Oceana, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, who don’t seem to accept this “fact,” and therefore must be part of the conspiracy to cover it up. Greenpeace politely declined, twice, to be interviewed, proving that they’re part of the cowspiracy too.
Since the 51% figure is key to the film’s conspiracy theory, let’s look at the study that it comes from. Ironically, in light of Cowspiracy’s thesis that environmental NGOs are hiding the science, this study proposing this figure on which they rely so heavily was not published in a scientific journal, but in a report by an environmental organization, the Worldwatch Institute. The report’s authors, Jeff Anhang and the late Robert Goodland, were not named in the movie but were described simply as “two advisers from the World Bank.”
How did Goodland and Anhang come up with 51%, rather than the scientific consensus that livestock are currently responsible for about 15% of global greenhouse gases (which includes direct emissions from the animals as well as emissions from feed production, land use change, and manure)?
The biggest single difference is that Goodland and Anhang also count the carbon dioxide that domesticated animals breathe out—i.e., respiration. You probably remember the basics of this from biology class. The biosphere is basically powered by the photosynthesis done by plants, which take up CO2 molecules from the atmosphere and use the sun’s energy to link those molecules together, making sugars, starches, fats, and (adding in other elements) proteins, DNA, and all the other parts of the living world. In doing so, they release oxygen, which now makes up about 21% of the atmosphere.
The planet’s “heterotrophs”—animals, fungi, and most bacteria and other microbes—can’t photosynthesize, so they need to get their energy from eating or decomposing the molecules produced by photosynthesis. Generally heterotrophs do this by reversing the process of photosynthesis—taking in oxygen, using it to break apart the energy-rich molecules created by the plants, and releasing CO2 back to the atmosphere. This is the process of respiration.
But Anhang and Goodland’s addition of the CO2 produced by livestock to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, ignores a simple but critical point: plants respire too. They do both of the fundamental processes, not only photosynthesizing but respiring as well.
This respiration is how they get the energy they need to maintain themselves, take up water and nutrients, and carry out all the other chemical reactions needed to live. In the process, they release most of the CO2 that they’ve taken in. And what they don’t is almost all released after they die, by respiration done by decomposers such as fungi and bacteria.
As a result, the CO2 that plants take out of the atmosphere, goes back into the atmosphere, whether or not they are eaten by animals. Thus, livestock (and other animals, including both wild and human ones) don’t add to the amount of CO2 that gets emitted into the atmosphere. This is why scientists reject Goodland and Anhang’s counting of livestock respiration as an additional anthropogenic source of greenhouse gases. It’s not additional—it would happen anyway, so you’re not justified in adding it in.
There is one important difference when it comes to a relatively small number of animal species. These are the ruminants, which include domesticated animals such as cows, sheep, and goats as well as wild ones such as deer and antelope.
Their digestive system includes a “rumen,” which contains microbes that can break down cellulose, which most animals cannot. Unfortunately, in the process these methanogenic microbes convert some of the carbon into methane (CH4), which is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. It causes about 25 times as much global warming per molecule as CO2, according to recent scientific consensus.
The release of methane to the atmosphere by ruminants, both directly from both ends of the animal (what is called “enteric fermentation”) and in their manure, is additional. It wouldn’t happen if the ruminants didn’t eat those plants, allowing the methanogenic microbes in their rumens to break it down and use it to produce methane. So scientists most definitely do count ruminant methane in their estimates of global warming pollution, and in fact it’s the largest single contribution to the nearly one-fourth of total emissions that come, directly and indirectly, from global agriculture.
However, Goodland and Anhang didn’t count it in the same way that most scientists do. Rather than weight the contribution of methane as 25 times as large, per molecule, as that of CO2, they use a weighting factor of 72 times, increasing its estimated impact nearly three-fold.
Why do they do this? Instead of using the standard method that estimates the global warming impact of gas molecules over a century, they only count its impact, as well as CO2’s, over a 20-year period. Since methane only lasts in the atmosphere for a decade or two before breaking down, while CO2 stays there for many centuries, counting the effects of both over only the first 20 years increases methane’s relative impact considerably. So, even though there hasn’t been any change in either the amount of CO2 or the amount of methane actually being emitted, the estimate of global warming pollution goes up substantially—with most of the blame going to cattle.
There has been a lot of scientific discussion about the best way to add together the global warming impact of different molecules, and it’s likely to continue.
It depends just how long you think global warming is likely to be an urgent problem. If it’s something that is going to be critical to human society for the rest of the 21st century, that argues for using the standard 100-year period for calculating the effect of greenhouse gases. If you’re pessimistic and think that we won’t be able to stabilize global temperatures for even longer than that, then you can argue for even more than 100 years.
On the other hand, choosing to take the average over only 20 years, as the Worldwatch study did, is tantamount to saying that we only care about ourselves, not our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. If global warming continues beyond the next two decades, that’s somebody else’s problem. I don’t find this an acceptable approach, either scientifically or morally.
These two departures from the scientific consensus—counting the non-additional CO2 respired by livestock, and weighting the methane that ruminant animals emit nearly three times as heavily as most scientists do—account for the biggest differences between the scientific consensus of about 15% of emissions and the 51% figure that Cowspiracy uses.
There are other differences that add smaller amounts—e.g. the estimate of emissions from animal-agriculture-driven deforestation, their use of a much higher count of how many livestock animals there are globally than the U.N. does, their dividing their “animal agriculture” total by a relatively small denominator, which makes the percentage higher, etc. They all have similar scientific weaknesses, and they all have the same kind of impact on the percentage, making it come out much larger (and thus making the importance of fossil fuels and energy smaller) than the scientific consensus says.
How has the scientific community responded to the 2009 Goodland and Anhang study and their 51% figure? We’ve rejected it, nearly unanimously, for the reasons I’ve explained.
Neither the reply to their study in a scientific journal, nor the more recent research papers on the subject, nor the latest reviews of the state of the science, nor the most recent report of the IPCC, written by thousands of scientists from all over the world and accepted as the scientific consensus on climate science—none of these have adopted the 51% figure.
Despite the efforts of both advocates like the makers of Cowspiracy and by the fossil fuel industry (see UCS’ recent report The Climate Deception Dossiers for details), there is strong agreement among scientists as well as among the global public that global warming is happening and humans, principally through the fossil fuels we burn, are the main cause of it.
Cowspiracy ignores this broad consensus, and indeed scientists are practically absent among the many talking heads in the film. It’s telling that although there are lots of statements of supposedly scientific numbers, the people making those statements aren’t identified as scientists, but rather by tags such as “Environmental and Ethics Author,” “Environmental and Food Author,” “Environmental Researcher and Author,” “Greenpeace Alaska Founder,” “Former Whole Foods Market Executive,” “Former Cattle Rancher,” and “Veganic Farmer.”
I must admit that there’s another, more personal, reason I find it hard to believe that there’s a massive conspiracy among NGOs and scientists to conceal the impact of animal agriculture on the climate.
That’s because my UCS colleagues and I—scientists at an NGO that focuses on climate change—have been writing and speaking extensively about the climate impact of livestock for several years now. And particularly about the impact of cows, especially beef cattle, which have a much heavier global warming hoofprint than other sources of food (including other animal foods).
We’ve been disseminating this scientific information not just in this blog (both recently and years ago) but also in major reports such as Root of the Problem (2011), Grade A Choice? (2012), Climate-Friendly Land Use (2013), as well as in scientific papers and the 2012 book Cooler, Smarter.
I guess you just have to conclude that the makers of Cowspiracy¸ despite its narrator’s claims of extensive research, just didn’t manage to find any of this work. Or maybe it’s just that our rejection of the 51% figure shows that, along with the rest of the scientific community, we’re part of the Cowspiracy too.
Recent research by social scientists has found that climate science denial tends to be associated with other kinds of conspiracy theory as well. As the title of a paper by Stephen Lewandosky and colleagues put it, “NASA faked the moon landing—therefore climate science is a hoax.”
While the subjects are different, what conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace, the 9/11 attacks, contrails from jet planes, vaccination, and climate change have in common is that they tell us that an incredibly large number of people—in government, in the media, and in Cowspiracy’s case, in science and the environmental community as well, have agreed to hide a key piece of information from the public.
Movies like Cowspiracy aren’t believable, not only because of how they twist the science, but also because of what they ask us to believe: that the fossil fuel industry—the ExxonMobils of the world—aren’t the main cause of global warming; that the transition to clean energy isn’t what matters most for our future and our grandchildren’s; and that thousands of scientists have covered up the truth about the most important environmental issue of our time.
Coming up next: As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m going to do a short series of reviews on recent books and movies related to beef and climate change. This review of Cowspiracy is the first of the series, and as you can guess, it’s about a movie that is fiercely anti-beef. The next two posts in the series will be about books: In Defense of Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman, and Cowed by Dennis and Gail Boyer Hayes.]]>