AuthorMccormack, Shanna
  1. INTRODUCTION 746 II. CLIMATE CHANGE BASICS, BIGGEST CONTRIBUTORS, AND GENERAL IMPACTS 748 A. Carbon Dioxide 750 B. Deforestation 751 C. Methane 751 D. Nitrous Oxide 752 E. Ocean Acidification 753 F. Pollution, Biodiversity, Antibiotic Resistance, and Emissions Projections 754 III. NATURAL DISASTERS, FARMED ANIMAL IMPACTS, AND TH E FUTURE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN EACH REGION 757 A. Hurricanes in the Southeast 758 B. Flooding in the Midwest 760 C. Wildfires in the West 762 rv. USDA's ROLE IN MANAGING AGRICULTURE AND ITS PRODUCTS AND THE DEPARTMENT'S POTENTIAL TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE 764 V. CONCLUSION 768 I. INTRODUCTION

    Animal agriculture produces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as all the world's modes of transportation combined. (5) Animal agriculture operations release large amounts of carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]), methane, and nitrous oxide. (6) Per pound, nitrous oxide has 296 times the warming potential of C[O.sub.2] and methane has 25 times the potential of C[O.sub.2]. (7) Animal agriculture also contributes to ocean acidification, which accelerates climate change. (8) Additionally, animal agriculture causes pollution, biodiversity loss, and antibiotic resistance which are also linked to climate change. (9)

    Action now to reduce emissions will determine whether the global rise in Earth's temperature is kept under the 2 degrees Celsius ([degrees]C) target set in the Paris Climate Agreement. (10) Because animal agriculture is such a large contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, the sector's inclusion in the climate discussion can make a large impact on overall emissions. Changes in agriculture alone can determine whether or not warming is kept under 2[degrees]C. (11)

    The United States Department of Agriculture disaster relief programs, authorized by the Farm Bill, that bail animal agriculture operations out of natural disasters, should be terminated for their contribution to these same natural disasters. (12) Protecting animal agriculture from disasters linked to climate change, and in effect to their very practices, removes responsibility for the externalities that the industry imposes on both a societal and ecological level. Instead, in the next Farm Bill, Congress should either allocate fewer funds to disaster relief programs or spend the funds solely on non-animal related agriculture operations impacted by natural disasters. Animal agriculture operations are often large industrial operations that are in the best position to make determinations on profitability. (13) If these operations are forced to bear the cost of the externalities they impose on the environment and society, they will need to factor this in to their profitability and take actions to mitigate negative externalities.

    This Comment explores sources of animal agriculture emissions that contribute to climate change as well as the impacts of climate change caused by these emissions. It then examines three regions in the United States that will be impacted by climate change. It looks at increasing hurricane intensity in the Southeast, intensifying floods in the Midwest, and increasingly destructive wildfires in the West. Each area will experience climate change but will face different natural disasters. (14) Each type of natural disaster both impacts animal agriculture operations and is worsened by the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. (15) This Comment then discusses natural disaster relief programs from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that alleviate the impact of natural disasters on animal agriculture operations. Finally, it analyzes the changes that should be made to the programs to force animal agriculture to pay for the environmental externalities of its operations.

    Congress should discontinue the appropriation of disaster funds for animal agriculture in the 2023 Farm Bill and beyond. Additionally, we can each take action to reduce the impact agriculture has on climate change by adopting a plant-based diet, which has a much smaller carbon footprint than a diet that includes animal products. (16) Changing what we eat can alone mean the difference between keeping Earth's temperature under 2[degrees]C and preventing the cascade of positive feedback loops that will further accelerate warming if the temperature rises over 2[degrees]C. (17) We need government action to stop bailing out animal agriculture, an industry that contributes significantly to climate change, and individual action to change our diets in a way that reduces emissions that cause climate change.


    Climate change is arguably the most pressing issue of our time. Our actions now will determine the landscape for future generations of both human and nonhuman species. With climate change comes disruption to harvests, an increased prevalence of infectious diseases, drought, environmental degradation, and extreme weather. (18) As demographic trends, migration, and urbanization occur in concert with climate change, the most vulnerable populations will face even greater threats to their livelihood and survival. (19)

    Changes in climate have already begun to occur. Earth's average temperature has increased by 2[degrees] Fahrenheit (F) during the twentieth century. (20) Accompanying this change in temperature, glaciers have shrunk, sea ice has melted, plant and animal ranges have shifted in latitude and elevation, (21) plants have started to flower sooner, sea level has begun to rise, and more intense heat waves have been recorded. (22) These changes are just the tip of the iceberg. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the net damage costs of climate change, financial and otherwise, will be significant and will continue to increase for decades to come. (23) IPCC projects an overall temperature rise of 2.5-10[degrees]F over the next century. (24)

    Climate change is predominantly driven by greenhouse gas production as a result of human activities. (25) The primary greenhouse gases contributing to climate change are: carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]), methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. (26) C[O.sub.2] production is predominantly a result of fossil fuel use but is also emitted through deforestation, land clearing for agriculture, and soil degradation. (27) Methane is mainly produced through agricultural activities, energy use, and biomass burning. (28) In the United States, methane emissions from livestock and those from natural gas are about equal. (29) Nitrous oxide is released through agricultural activities like fertilizer use and fossil fuel combustion. (30) Fluorinated gases in the atmosphere have no natural sources and are entirely a result of human activities such as industrial aluminum manufacturing andthrough their use as a substitute for ozone-depleting substances like refrigerants. (31)

    Although C[O.sub.2] represents a higher percentage of overall emissions than methane, methane is more efficient at trapping radiation in the atmosphere than C[O.sub.2]. (32) Per pound, methane has twenty-five times the impact of C[O.sub.2] over a 100-year period. (33) Methane's efficiency at trapping radiation in the atmosphere makes its role in climate change particularly impactful. While methane is emitted from energy, industry, and agricultural activities, the largest contributor of methane in the United States is the agricultural sector. (34) Nitrous oxide is another greenhouse gas more efficient than C[O.sub.2]. (35) Nitrous oxide has 296 times the warming potential of C[O.sub.2] and can remain present in the atmosphere for 150 years. (36) Livestock contributes 65 percent (%) of all human-caused emissions of nitrous oxide. (37) A 2013 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock. (38) This is the same amount as emissions from all the world's cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes combined. (39)

    1. Carbon Dioxide

      Animal agriculture releases C[O.sub.2] through high-energy feed crop production, factory farm energy requirements, processing and packaging the animals, desertification, and deforestation. (40) Emissions released from the production, processing, and transport of feed make up 45% of emissions from animal agriculture. (41) Beef cattle, followed closely by dairy cattle, contribute the largest amount of C[O.sub.2] of all farmed animals. (42) Approximately 65% of the sector's overall C[O.sub.2] emissions are from both beef and dairy cattle alone. (43) Just under 10% of total animal agriculture emissions (including C[O.sub.2] and other emissions) are a result of C[O.sub.2] released through land use change to expand the area in use for feed crop production and pasture expansion for grazing. (44) Of land use change emissions, a major portion is due to the conversion of forests to pasture. (45) Another 25% of C[O.sub.2] emissions are due to feed crops produced for animal feed. (46)

    2. Deforestation

      Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation and is responsible for up to 91% of deforestation in the Amazon. (47) Beef, soy, palm oil, and wood production drive the majority of tropical deforestation. (48) In all, deforestation accounts for three billion tons of C[O.sub.2] released into the atmosphere each year. (49) Much of the soy produced through deforestation is destined to become animal feed; 80% of soy cultivated in the Amazon is grown for animal feed. (50)

      Deforestation contributes to climate change by releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. (51) After trees are cut down for agriculture, they are often left to rot and decompose or are burned--either way--releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. (52) Soils in tropical forests are very nutrient poor and contain only a thin layer of topsoil. (53) Because of this, forest land cleared for agriculture is not conducive to agricultural use in the long-term. (54) When forests are cut, the...

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