They're coming for our barbecue. We have warned, for some time, that the left simply cannot stand to see red-blooded Americans eat red-blooded, smoked meaty goodness. First it was the city of Austin threatening to shut down barbecue joints because of smoke.
Now, it's CNN repeating the claim that eating meat - in particular beef in the form of barbecue brisket - is making climate change much, much worse.
CNN's climate change correspondent is John Sutter. Last week, he traveled to Texas to sample brisket at Snow's BBQ in Lexington.
His review? "Note the salt-and-pepper ‘bark' at the edge of the meat, the red tree rings where the smoke that cooks the beef, slowly, overnight, has left its artistic mark. The cloudlike strips of beef were so tender locals insist you peel them apart with your fingers, not a fork and knife."
Yet Sutter could not contain his true purpose - to denounce barbecue (and the Texans who prepare it) as an affront to the environment.
"Texas beef people are lovably tough," he wrote. "You want to root for them. But there's ‘an inconvenient truth' about beef consumption, too, as I would discover on a trip through the supply chain of that meal: Beef is awful for the climate."
He cites a commonly used United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization study, which says "globally, 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas pollution can be attributed to livestock."
And so, he contends, "eating beef, as I'll explain, has come to be seen, rightly, in certain enviro circles, as the new SUV - a hopelessly selfish, American indulgence…"
Now, here's where Sutter is wrong.
First, the CNN correspondent is citing a specific report: The U.N.'s 2006 study, "Livestock's Long Shadow." Its methodology and numbers have been in question for some time.
"While never explicitly stated in any publication, the idea that if livestock were simply eliminated, 18 percent of anthropogenic GHGs would also be eliminated as well, is unrealistic," writes Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., of the University of California Davis. "In fact, many of the resources previously dedicated to domesticated livestock would be utilized by other human activities, many of which produce much greater climate change impacts."
In other words, land used for cattle now would be used for something else, absent the cows. That use would have an impact, so straight subtraction isn't a fair way to calculate environmental impact.
Second, the U.N. FAO study seems to be at odds with other reports within the same U.N. agency. Those reports which proudly point out that agriculture is eliminating hunger around the world.
"World hunger falls to under 800 million, eradication is next goal," one report proclaims. "Seventy-two countries have achieved the Millennium Development target of halving proportion of the chronically undernourished."
How has this been accomplished? Investments in agriculture, the report says.
"Improved agricultural productivity, especially by small and family farmers, leads to important gains in hunger and poverty reduction," the report explains.
So CNN and John Sutter can eschew barbecue if they wish. That just leaves more for us.