Meat and Dairy Greenhouse Emissions ‘Could Lead Us to a Point of No Return’

Three of the world’s largest meat producers emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than France, putting them on par with oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, a recent study found.

GRAIN, a non-profit organization, collaborated with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Heinrich Böll Foundation to estimate the greenhouse emissions of meat and dairy corporations, a figure that few companies calculate or publish.

The study was published as meat and dairy industry representatives arrived in Bonn, Germany for the COP23 to emphasize their role in food security.

In stark terms the study warns that if unchecked, the world’s top meat and dairy producers’ greenhouse emissions “could lead us to a point of no return.”

Projections showing business-as-usual meat and dairy greenhouse emissions.GRAINThrough lobbying, major meat and dairy companies have promoted policies that have led to increased production and consumption around the world. Livestock production now contributes 15 percent of global greenhouse emissions, more than the transportation sector, according to the study.

If livestock production continues to grow at the rates estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, greenhouse emissions from the meat and dairy industries will undercut attempts to keep global average temperatures below 2°C.

The paper’s authors warned that industry representatives will arrive at the COP23 in Bonn pushing their agenda—the expansion of livestock production—as a solution. This will amount to criticism of small-scale farmers, which is where the solution in cutting greenhouse emissions lies, according to the authors of the study.

Rather than continuing to subsidize factory farming and agribusiness that undercuts millions of small farmers, governments should redirect public money to support “small-scale agroecological” farms, the study suggests.

Graph showing the top 20 meat and dairy companies’ greenhouse emissions.GRAINThree out the world’s five biggest meat and dairy greenhouse gas emitters are U.S.-based companies.

A previous study showed beef, when compared to staples like potatoes, wheat and rice, has a per calorie impact that requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases.

Another study published in Environmental Research Letters calculated that a 50 percent reduction in mean per capita meat consumption in the developed world is needed by 2050 to meet global greenhouse gas emissions targets.


A dirt berm is maintained along the coast of Utqiaġvik, the northernmost city in Alaska, in an effort to slow seawater intrusion from increasingly severe Arctic storms. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)A dirt berm is maintained along the coast of Utqiaġvik, the northernmost city in Alaska, in an effort to slow seawater intrusion from increasingly severe Arctic storms. (Photo: Dahr Jamail)

As the summer Arctic sea ice melts and continues to recede further, the fragile coastline resting atop thawing permafrost is made more vulnerable to the warming waters of the Arctic Ocean, and the waves are given room to grow larger by the vanishing ice.

This past August, every time I walked to the shore in Utqiaġvik, the northernmost point in the US and only 1,300 miles from the North Pole, a large bulldozer was busy maintaining a large dirt barrier that perilously separated the northern edges of the village against the steadily encroaching, increasingly turbulent seas. It is a full-time job, because, as I would soon learn from the president of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation that owns and runs a large portion of the village, the berm requires rebuilding from storms past, ongoing maintenance, and then building back up in preparation for coming storms.

One evening I walked to the coast as large sets of waves, sent from a windstorm out at sea, rolled onto and up the beach. Many of them were large enough to crash against the flanks of the 25-foot berm. As they did, the water jetted up into the air, colored dark brown from the fresh soil that had just been dumped onto the berm. As the waves pulled back into the ocean, they carried with them large clumps of fresh dirt that rolled down the beach into the shallow waters of the Chuchki Sea.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

Only rows of the very top portions of older canvas bags filled with soil remained atop portions of the beach, remnants of previous attempts to stop the sea’s relentless march towards the village. Soil from the newest iteration, the large berm, actively covered and rendered impotent the old barrier. In another place on the beach were the top corners of large metal tanks, rusting as they lay side by side in a row, protruding above the sand … for now.

Where I stood, the sea was already washing directly against the manmade barrier. The first row of houses in the village was barely 15 meters from the back of the berm. Not far behind them stood government buildings, the police station, tribal offices. One hundred meters south of me along the coast, larger homes stood atop a bluff that was about five meters tall. A dirt road separated the homes from the edge of the bluff. Waves were already splashing against the bottom of the bluff, as they rolled over the tops of mostly buried sandbags.

The motor of the front-loader rumbled as it scooped up shovelfuls of dark soil from a large pile that had been carried from a gravel pit a half a kilometer inland. Black exhaust smoke billowed from the top of the front-loader as it quickly carried another load of soil to the berm where it slowed and allowed its blade to tip down. Out tumbled another load of future seabed. Underneath it, unseen, methane was already bubbling up to further heat the atmosphere and render these efforts laughable.


Increased Methane Levels?: Cows Are to Blame, Says New Study

Who is to blame for increased methane levels in the earth’s atmosphere: humans, or cows? For years, the question was posed tongue in cheek by skeptics of human-caused global warming. Methane is a hydrocarbon, which, at room temperature and normal pressure, appears as a colorless, odorless gas. It is also the main component of natural gas. In recent years, atmospheric methane levels have become a concern for environmentalists, who note that global methane levels have increased from roughly 1750 parts per billion in the early 2000s to 1830 parts per billion today. A new study claims to have found the source of the missing methane emissions: cows.

“Our results suggest that livestock methane emissions, while not the dominant overall source of global methane emissions, may be a major contributor to the observed annual emissions increases over the 2000s to 2010s,” conclude researchers in a new study published by Carbon Balance and Management, an academic journal.

The new study reevaluates estimates of the methane emissions produced by livestock in the U.S., finding that previous studies had underestimated these emissions by as much as 11 percent. Even more curiously, the researchers found that the largest increases in livestock methane emissions were in the northern tropics. The results of the study have the potential to impact how environmentalists and policy-makers treat agriculture when dealing with the problem of greenhouse gases.

The study used data from the U.S. EPA when considering the impacts of livestock raised around the world. As a result, it is one of the most comprehensive studies of the impact of livestock on global warming done to date.

The study showed that livestock played a large role in the increased methane levels observed recently. Cattle and other ruminants that break down food in the first of four stomachs, naturally produce methane as a product of digestion. While this has long been understood as a fact of biology, its impact on the environment has not been so fully studied. Increased consumption of meat in China and other parts of the world has increased the impact of methane emissions from livestock.

Using data from 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the researchers found that the report failed to account for changes in livestock breeding and management. In recent years, cattle have been bred to be larger and also, manure has been stored in open pits, which release methane into the air as they decay. Accounting for these two changes, global estimated emissions from livestock digestion went up 8.4 percent, while estimates for manure management went up 36.7 percent.

Methane has been a focus for environmentalists in recent years, after studies showed that atmospheric levels were increasing. Methane is released both by cows themselves and also by fermenting piles of manure, which release the gas as part of their natural decay process. Although the gas is naturally occurring, environmentalists are concerned about methane levels, believing the gas to be 25 times more potent as a warmer than carbon dioxide.

The study has the potential to significantly alter major industries in the U.S. For oil companies, methane is serious business. The gas is often found alongside deposits of oil. In many areas, these pockets of natural gas had been deemed not economically feasible to extract. As a result, for years, many companies had vented, or released, this methane into the atmosphere at drill sites. Since it remained unregulated, and therefore, unmeasured, the full impact of this practice was never realized.

The Obama administration attempted to clamp down on the practice through a rule that would curb the “wasteful release of natural gas” from wells operating on public and Native American lands. The oil industry complained about the decision, saying that it would increase production prices. After the inauguration, the Trump administration has since tried to repeal this rule but encountered resistance from Congress.

To save the planet, scientists figured out how to fix cow farts–The secret to “climate-friendly” cattle

By Marlene CimonsNexus Media 4 hours ago


Moo-ve over, methane


Raising cattle contributes to global warming in a big way. The animals expel large amounts of methane when they burp and fart, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. beef production, in fact, roughly equals the annual emissions of 24 million cars, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. That’s a lot of methane.

Researchers think there may be a better way. Rather than ask people to give up beef, they are trying to design more climate-friendly cattle. The goal is to breed animals with digestive systems that can create less methane. One approach is to tinker with the microbes that live in the rumen, the main organ in the animals’ digestive tract. These tiny organisms enable fermentation during digestion and produce the methane released by the cattle.

Scientists in the United Kingdom last year found that a cow’s genes influence the makeup of these microbial communities, which include bacteria and also Archaea, the primary producers of methane. This discovery means cattle farmers potentially could selectively breed animals that end up with a lower ratio of Archaea-to-bacteria, thus leading to less methane.


Cattle raised for beef


“The methanogens — or Archaea, which produce methane — are totally different from bacteria, so we could determine their abundances in the rumen samples,” said Rainer Roehe, professor of animal genetics at Scotland’s Rural College. Roehe studied the composition of microbes in sample animals and established that the host animals’ genes were responsible for their makeup. “The higher the Archaea-to-bacteria ratio, the larger the amount of methane emissions,” he said.

His study, which appeared in PLOS Genetics, recently won the journal’s prestigious genetics research prize. The journal called the work “the first step toward breeding low-emission cattle, which will become increasingly important in the face of growing global demand for meat.” The research identified specific microbial “profiles,” that is, combinations of microbes, which could help determine which cattle digest their feed more efficiently, and emit less methane.

“These can then be used as selection criteria to mitigate methane emissions,” Roehe said. “The selection to reduce methane emissions would be permanent, cumulative and sustainable over generations as with any other trait, such as growth rate, milk yield, etc. used in animal breeding.” This, over time, “would have a substantial impact on methane emissions from livestock,” Roehe said.

U.S. methane emissions by source. Enteric fermentation (i.e. cow farts) is the second-largest source of methane emissions.

U.S. methane emissions by source. Enteric fermentation (i.e. cow farts) is the second-largest source of methane emissions.

Environmental Protection Agency

He predicted the approach not only would reduce the environmental footprint of beef production, but it would also enable farmers to produce meat more cost effectively. It also likely would improve animals’ health and improve the quality of meat, since rumen microbial fermentation enhances the production of omega-3 fatty acids, he said.

He and his colleagues tested 72 animals — eight descendants from each of nine sires — in order to predict the effect of their genes on the microbial community, Roehe explained. “The only common factor of these progenies was its genes inherited from its sire,” he said.

“Archaea and bacteria are available in the rumen of all ruminates,” he said. “What we determined are the abundances of these Archaea and bacteria in the rumen of each animal and then calculated their ratio, which was correlated to methane emissions.”


Cows aren’t great for the planet


They analyzed the samples and found that inherited genes “influenced significantly methane emissions [and] the Archaea-to-bacteria ratio,” he said. They determined that more than 80 percent of the methane emissions could be explained by the “relative abundance” of 20 genes, he said. Even with different diets and different breeds of cattle, the outcome remained the same. “That means that the animals’ genetics shapes the composition of its own microbial community,” he said.

There also likely are biological factors involved, including salvia production, which influences pH in the rumen — “and thus the living conditions of the rumen microbial community” — the physical size, structural differences and contraction of the rumen, which affects the rate at which digested food passes through the rumen, and even “crosstalk” between rumen microbes and other cells, he said.

In practice, breeders would need rumen samples from many animals to determine their genetic makeup. While the research still is in the experimental stages, Roehe said, “we are working with breeding organizations together to prove the efficiency of the system under practical conditions.”

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture.


Wildfires Are Big Trouble For The Northwest’s Lynx, Pygmy Rabbits And Other Creatures

The Eagle Creek Fire takes spreads through the Columbia River Gorge, September 4, 2017.

The Eagle Creek Fire takes spreads through the Columbia River Gorge, September 4, 2017.

Courtesy of InciWeb

As wildfires rage across the Pacific Northwest, more than just people are displaced from their homes. Animals in the wild are also feeling the effects of the flames.More and more, wildfires are changing conservation strategies for threatened and endangered animals in the region, especially as a warming climate lengthens fire season.

“We essentially assume that we’re going to have earlier fire seasons. They’re going to last longer. And they will typically be more severe,” said Jeff Krupka, field office manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Central Washington.

Northern spotted owl, Canada lynx, bull trout. Just a few in a long line of listed animals. Not to mention rare and endangered plants.

Canada lynx

Canada lynx


It’s still to early to know what’s species are threatened by the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, as firefighters are working to save people and homes.

But resilient ecosystems have a better ability to recover from natural disasters, said Rachel Pawlitz, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

“We believe we’ve taken good care of the underlying ecology of this area in the last 30 years since we were created,” she said. “That will be a factor to help the natural system regenerate itself.”

Pawlitz said, although many people want to help, it’s important that they don’t take a go-it-alone approach with restoration efforts. Volunteers should work with the Forest Service or other experts once the fire is out.

A fire earlier this summer near Quincy, Washington, swept through pygmy rabbit habitat. The rabbits are federally listed as endangered in the state — the hilly sagebrush landscape in Central Washington is their only home.

Biologists are now trying to breed pygmy rabbits in the wild. So far biologists have found around 90 burrows this winter. Penny Becker says the DNA samples have shown more than 40 individual rabbits.

Biologists are now trying to breed pygmy rabbits in the wild. So far biologists have found around 90 burrows this winter. Penny Becker says the DNA samples have shown more than 40 individual rabbits.

Flickr Creative Commons: USFWS Pacific

Biologists have worked since 2011 to breed and release hundreds of the palm-sized rabbits into the wild. They say the program has been a success.

But this June, the wind-driven Sutherland Canyon Fire killed about 70 rabbits in one breeding area. Biologists and firefighters were able to rescue 32 others that had escaped into burrows.

Matt Monda, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional wildlife manager, said many of the surviving rabbits were found the next day, huddled in a small patch of sagebrush surrounded by charred landscape.

Lead biologist Jon Gallie had retrofitted the irrigation system to keep that patch alive.

“The fire was a setback for our restoration program, but we can start making up for those losses next year,” Monda said. “Wildfires are a fact of life here in sagebrush country, which is a major reason why we don’t keep all of the rabbits in one place.”

Right now, the Jolly Mountain Fire is threatening spotted owl, bull trout, and steelhead habitat. It’s also burning near whitebark pine, which the U.S. Forest Service says needs protection but is not yet listed on the Endangered Species List.

Whitebark pines thrive in rugged mountain in environments.

Whitebark pines thrive in rugged mountain in environments.

Devan Schwartz

Farther north in Washington, there’s concern for what’s left of Canada lynxhabitat. The Diamond Creek Fire, which is still burning in Okanogan County, may have destroyed what’s left of the federally threatened wildcats’ habitat.

“That’s particularly disheartening because in the state of Washington, we have essentially one reproductive population of lynx, and that’s where they live,” Krupka said.

Lynx resemble bobcats with very furry paws and short tails. One resident population is known to live in Washington. The federal and state government designated critical habitat in Okanogan County.

“The Okanogan Lynx Management Zone taken a beating in the last decade (because of fires),” Krupka said.

Habitat fragmentation from wildfires, along with climate change, are considered the biggest threats to lynx in the state.

Conservation groups threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because they were concerned there wasn’t enough lynx habitat set aside in the state.

Managers will be better able to assess damage once the fires are put out — and it’s safe for people to survey habitat areas.

But it’s not all bad — wildfires are a natural part of the landscape. Some animals may even thrive after a fire, said Michelle Dennehy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

“Some animals will perish in the fire, some will evade it, but for the most part, populations will not be impacted long-term.  In fact, some populations may flourish and exceed pre-fire numbers with the positive ecological functions following a fire,” Dennehy said in an email.

She said most habitats require disturbance, like fires and floods, and without these periodic events the land really isn’t as good as it could be.

“Animals rely on a mosaic of habitats to complete their needs…. and the disturbance related habitat created by the fire, once recovered, will add to habitat complexity and provide a new type of habitat,” Dennehy said.

In Oregon, the Eagle Creek Fire forced ODFW to prematurely release 606,000 fall chinook salmon from fish hatcheries in the Columbia River Gorge.

Hatchery managers had marked and tagged the early releases, so they will be able to track and compare their survival rates.

Those fish are expected to do OK.

Looking ahead, there could be more concerns for other fish, including threatened and endangered salmon and bull trout.

If riparian areas on stream edges have been damaged, water temperatures could get warmer near spawning areas.

Fires often disturb the ground as well. There’s no vegetation left to hold in the soil — and so heavy rains could cause mudslides or excessive sediment in streams.

A silver lining: fallen trees could become good fish habitat later, Dennehy said.

Many animals that are able to move quickly will do so, said Ross Huffman, southcentral regional lands operations manager for WDFW.

“It depends on the species. Things like wolves are pretty highly mobile, as long as the fire’s not going super fast or has a really strong wind. They more than likely have the ability to escape, as long as there’s habitat nearby that they can move to. Spotted owls are highly mobile. The longer term (problem) would be the loss of habitat,” Huffman said.

Looking forward, once more is know about what has really been lost, land managers are thinking about restoration efforts: stabilizing loose sediment, repairing roads, restoring trees and aquatic habitats.

And they begin to ask what else can be done. Should land managers do more?

Take the Canada lynx, Krupka said. Should they put in pre-suppression fire lines in the subalpine habitat? It’s not something that’s normally thought about.

“When you have a limited resource is that something that you should do?” Krupka said. “We ask these questions of ourselves, unfortunately sometimes after a tragedy of sorts. What can we learn from this? What can we do better?”

Life existed on Mars, shocking discovery suggests


Scientists have found key evidence which suggests life may once have existed on Mars.

Nasa’s Curiosity rover has detected boron, a key ingredient for life, on the dusty surface of the Red Planet.

The discovery is a huge boost in the hunt for extraterrestrials and could back up a theory suggesting life on Mars may have been forced underground when disaster turned the planet into a “frigid desert”.

Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory said: “Because borates may play an important role in making RNA – one of the building blocks of life – finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet.

“Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA. Without RNA, you have no life.

“The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred.”

RNA is ribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid present in all modern life which is involved in the decoding and expression of genes from DNA.

It is known to be unstable, so unless boron is present it decomposes quickly.

Gasda’s work is detailed in a study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

It describes how Nasa’s buggy found the element in calcium sulphate mineral “veins” in the rocky surface.

That means boron was present in Mars groundwater and indicates that the Gale crater, where Nasa’s robo buggy is right now, may have been home to life.

It bolsters the bizarre theory that life originated on Mars and was carried to Earth on an asteroid.

Astronomer Caleb Sharf has previously claimed: “We can find pieces of Mars here on Earth and we suspect that there are pieces of Earth on Mars.

“If that material can carry living organisms on it, it’s possible that we are Martian.”

These hypotheses have forced bonkers scenarios in which officials have asked Nasa experts whether life existed there in recent times.

Dana Rohrabacher, an American senator, publically asked a project scientist overseeing Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover mission if aliens ever lived on the Martian surface.

He quizzed: “You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago.

“Is it possible that there was a civilisation on Mars thousands of years ago?”

Nasa’s Ken Farley responded: “So, the evidence is that Mars was different billions of years ago, not thousands of years ago, and there is no evidence I’m aware of…”

However, there soon may be life on Mars if tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has his way.

The Space X founder has announced plans to put humans on the surface of the Red Planet by 2030.

This story originally appeared in The Sun.

How the chaos of Hurricane Katrina helped save pets from flooding in Texas
 August 31

People and their pets seek shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on Aug. 28. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

As Hurricane Harvey pelted Houston with heavy rains over the weekend, a local television news station broadcast footage of flood evacuees sitting outsidethe George R. Brown Convention Center. The people weren’t waiting for space inside what would become a massive emergency shelter. They were choosing to remain outdoors because their pets were not allowed in with them.

That policy changed within a day, after a top elected official made clear both humans and animals were welcome at the city’s evacuation centers.

“We all saw what followed Hurricane Katrina, where people weren’t allowed to keep their pets with them, so they said, ‘Well, never mind, we’ll just stay outside,’” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told reporters Sunday evening. “We obviously don’t want that to happen.”

Emmett wasn’t making just a passing reference to the catastrophe that hit New Orleans in 2005. During that disaster, many residents stayed put — and died in some cases — rather than heed rescuers’ instructions to leave pets behind as waters inundated homes. Others faced wrenching choices when they arrived at shelters that would not allow animals. One small white dog, Snowball, became a national symbol of these emotional separations after he was taken from the arms of a child who was boarding a bus to Texas that did not take pets. The boy cried so hard, according to an Associated Press report, he vomited.

One 2006 poll found 44 percent of people who chose not to evacuate during Katrina did so because they did not want to abandon their pets. Even so, the Louisiana SPCA estimated, more than 100,000 pets were left behind and as many as 70,000 died throughout the Gulf Coast.

A dozen years later, Katrina is viewed as a watershed moment in planning for pets during natural disasters. It changed federal and state policies — and, animal advocates and experts say, made clear Americans have widely embraced the idea of dogs and cats as family members.

“You saw pictures of dogs standing on roofs and cats swimming in these toxic waters, and there was a huge public outcry,” said journalist David Grimm, who wrote about the impact in his book, “Citizen Canine.” Katrina “was a real turning point,” he added, “where suddenly it wasn’t just, ‘This is how I view my pets.’ It’s, ‘This is how everyone views their pets.’”

Volunteers in boats rescue people and their pets from neighborhoods near Interstate 45 in Houston on Aug. 29. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

At the time, emergency management plans took only people into account. The result was an ad hoc approach to animals, with some responders flat-out turning away dogs and others agreeing to evacuate them. Animal protection groups, which quickly became overwhelmed with displaced critters separated from their owners, often found themselves at odds with local and state officials, recalled Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

The sense that systems had failed both pets and people quickly reached Capitol Hill. In 2006, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation requiring local and state authorities who want federal emergency grants to include pets in disaster plans. It authorized the use of federal funds for pet-friendly emergency shelters.

Snowball was the impetus.

“The dog was taken away from this little boy, and to watch his face was a singularly revealing and tragic experience,” Rep. Tom Lantos said at the time. The California Democrat, who died in 2008, sponsored the House version of the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act — legislation “born at that moment” with Snowball, Lantos said.

More than 30 U.S. states now have laws that address disaster planning for pets and service animals. Texas requires its emergency management officials to help localities devise plans “for the humane evacuation, transport and temporary sheltering of service animals and household pets in a disaster.”

Not all evacuation centers in Texas are accepting pets this week, but many are accommodating them in separate areas or coordinating with off-site shelters to house them. In San Antonio, for instance, a state-run reception center for Harvey evacuees routes pets to a city-run animal shelter, after assigning them and owners individual ID numbers that will help reunite them later.

The images and stories out of Southeast Texas — of rescue boats loaded with dogs and people — are far different from those that emerged during Katrina. Lisa Eicher’s experience offers just one example. When the Conroe, Tex., resident woke Monday, floodwaters had nearly submerged the 15 feet of steps up to the first floor of her family’s home. Before she, her husband and four children could pack more than a garbage bag of clothes, firefighters had rolled up outside in a muddy dump truck and were telling them to leave.

“We have two kids with Down syndrome, a pig and a three-legged dog,” Eicher recalled telling them.

“Sounds good,” one firefighter responded. “Let’s do this.”

Soon Eicher’s husband and a firefighter were helping Pip, a terrier mix, swim across the murky water. Next up was Penny, a mottled potbellied pig that floated on a yellow life jacket.

“A dog is one thing, but a pig is different,” Eicher said in a phone interview from Austin, where the family — pets included — are staying with friends. “I was worried that we weren’t going to be able to bring her. … The fact that they were so good with our pets was really sweet and meant a lot.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society both greatly expanded their disaster response divisions after Katrina. The latter now has memorandums of understanding with many local organizations and localities — including the Houston suburbs of League City and Dickinson — that allow for more nimble and organized responses, Pacelle said.

“In a general sense, Katrina was the teaching moment in the United States for people to understand … that the lives of humans and animals in our communities are intertwined,” he said. “You couldn’t look at individuals. You had to look at the family group when you approached disaster response.”

Animals that do not remain with owners also have more places to go these days, advocates say. As Harvey approached, several Texas shelters shipped dogs and cats out to distant facilities to make room for furry refugees. Those far-off places, such as the Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, in turn revved up adoptions to clear even more space.

“We’re working nonstop to get out every single animal that was currently adoptable in some of these cities where we know that these evacuees are going to need to come,” said Katie Jarl, senior state director in Texas for the Humane Society. The organization sent more than 100 shelter animals out of San Antonio between Monday and Wednesday.

The first rescue dog is offloaded as St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey welcomes nearly 100 dogs displaced by the hurricane in Texas. (Bob Karp/Daily Record/AP)

Much of the movement is relying on sophisticated transport networks, many of which grew out of the chaos during Katrina. On Tuesday night at 10 p.m., eight mixed-breed dogs — labs, hounds and pit bulls — arrived at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter in Bridgewater, N.J. They had come from San Antonio on a plane flown by Wings of Rescue, a California-based charity that uses private aircraft to fly animals from high-kill southern shelters to northern areas where euthanasia rates are lower.

“We saw a lot of dogs out of that plane getting a second life,” said Brian Bradshaw, who manages the Somerset shelter. “By helping these animals, we are also helping people, and that goes hand in hand.”

The Harvey efforts are by no means “copacetic or settled,” Pacelle said. Citing health concerns, some emergency shelters are turning away people with pets, as are hotels — though both face shaming on social media when they do so. The corporation that owns Holiday Inn Express apologized this week after reportsthat its Katy, Tex., hotel rejected a family with three dogs.

And though animal advocates say arrangements have greatly improved since 2005, they are still not ideal for some pet owners. One Corpus Christi couple who evacuated to San Antonio opted to go to a hotel after learning their dog would be temporarily housed at the city-run shelter, rather than with them at an evacuation center.

“This isn’t a dog. This is a child,” Kevin Pogue told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “I’m not going to be separated from my child; it’s that simple.”

That Pogue’s sentiment is now enshrined in legal code, which has long viewed pets as property, is one of Katrina’s lasting legacies.

“Pets essentially became members of society: You rescue the people, and you also try to rescue the cats and dogs,” said Grimm, the journalist. “Nobody is passing laws saying you should rescue the toasters. It’s really a huge, fundamental shift that happened.”

Stephanie Kuzydym and Emily Wax in Houston contributed to this report. 

Read more:

These rescuers take shelter animals on road trips to help them find new homes

Harvey is also displacing snakes, fire ants and gators

A photo of a dog carrying a bag of food after a storm hit Texas went viral. Here’s his story.

Harvey is a 1,000-year flood event unprecedented in scale

HSUS Harvey Update: Search and rescue operations underway

HSUS logo
Our Animal Rescue Team is on the ground right now helping animals impacted by the massive flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Upon our arrival in Texas City, we learned that the most urgent needs were in Dickinson and League City, where our help was requested by officials. My team is conducting animal search and rescue missions with Dickinson Animal Control. We are responding in flooded areas where roads remain impassible to rescue pets from their deluged homes.

ART van driving through floodThe flooding is so severe that road closures will have our team marooned in place until some flooding subsides.

But we’ve purchased food and crates to temporarily house animals who are rescued from the field—and we’ll ensure they have a soft and warm place to rest.

We’re also transporting animals who were available for adoption before the storm in San Antonio to other states to make room for displaced pets.

Thank you so much for your support, and please stay tuned for another update tomorrow.

Sara Varsa
Sára Varsa
Senior Director, Animal Cruelty, Rescue and Response

Melting Arctic Ice is Changing Whale Migration. How One Choice We Make Every Day Can Help

It seems that every day brings a new discovery regarding the impacts of climate change on our planet. From its contribution to the Sixth Mass Extinction to its threat to coral reefs worldwide, to its impact on animal migration patterns, the negative effects of a changing climate are being seen everywhere.

Not even the farthest reaches of the globe can escape climate change or the damage it brings with it. The melting of sea ice around the Arctic Circle may not exactly be news, but we are only now starting to understand just how destructive these changes can be to wildlife.

As ice disappears in the Arctic Circle, a passage is opening up where marine animals can move between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The warming Arctic Ocean is also inviting new species to the area. The full impacts of this phenomena may yet to be seen, but the prognosis is not exactly a good one.

A New Passage in The North

The Northwest Passage is a pathway through the Arctic Ocean, north of Canada, that passes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Historically, it has been appealing to shippers and explorers as navigating the icy water could offer an alternate route around North America. However, given the strong presence of dangerous sea ice, the Northwest Passage has rarely been navigated. That is, until recent years.

Since the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has declined by 14 percent. And while the year 2012 set the most recent record summer low of sea ice levels in the Arctic, the region has been on an overall downward trend. November 2015 has shown a growth in sea ice. However, this is expected given the returned winter. The National Snow and Ice Data Center still reports that November 2015 data shows a rate of decline of sea ice at 4.7 percent per decade.

Melting Sea Ice Is Mixing Up WhalesNASA Goddard Space Flight Center/ Flickr
With the opportunity of ice-free sailing in this swath of the Arctic Ocean, 

With the opportunity of ice-free sailing in this swath of the Arctic Ocean, shippers are finding benefit in the unfortunate loss of our frozen habitat. And even a yacht race in the once frozen ocean has been proposed for 2017 based on the assumption the region will be hazard-free enough for the event. (Whaaaat?!)

Human activity around the Arctic Ocean is certainly changing along with the terrain, so it’s no wonder the animals in the region are also changing how they interact with their new environment.

Whales On the Move

The impact of climate change on Arctic sea ice has been pretty well documented over the last few years. The rising concern for loss of habitat for animals like polar bears and walruses has made the daily news on occasion, but these aren’t the only animals that are having their habitat changed under warming skies.

As the ice in the Northwestern Passage melts during the warmer months of the year in the northern hemisphere, the Passage is opening up. While an open sea lane free of thick ice may be appealing to shippers, marine mammals are also taking to exploring and utilizing the brand new path of ocean.

Take the gray whale, for instance. These animals went extinct in the Atlantic Ocean and were gone from sight 300- 400 years ago. Yet, in 2010, scientists documented a gray whale in the Mediterranean Ocean! A study released in the Marine Biodiversity Records the following year acknowledges that the chance that such an animal could go unnoticed by researchers for hundreds of years is pretty unlikely, and this animal most likely used the melting Northwest Passage to make its journey from the Pacific. Will more gray whales make this journey in the future? Will they reestablish a population of gray whales in the Atlantic Ocean?

Gray whales aren’t the only species of whale to show peculiar behavior changes as the result of melting Arctic sea ice. The altered habitat is inviting new visitors that compete with the Arctic’s year-round residents.

Bowhead whales make their home in the Arctic Circle all year. Not only would heavier ship traffic in the area be of concern, but new competition is also a worry as the sea ice in their homes melts away. Humpback and fin whales which tend to hang around the Arctic mainly in the summer may choose to stay longer, competing with bowhead whales for food.

Melting Sea Ice Is Mixing Up WhalesDay Donaldson/ FlickrAnd of concern to all baleen whales in the Arctic is the new presence of their natural predators: killer whales. The largest member of the dolphin family and a formidable threat to even large whales has been documented over recent years with increasingly frequent sightings in the cold waters of the Arctic. With the assistance of Inuit hunters in the area, scientists can confirm that killer whales are now appearing in the warming Arctic in numbers not ever seen before. Whereas their towering dorsal fin once made their navigation of icy waters difficult, the melting sea ice is now open territory for the animals to hunt. These charismatic black and white animals can now more easily prey on animals like bowhead whales, narwhals, and belugas in their new Arctic habitats.

The Take-Home Message

The fact that climate change is altering the habitats of animals not just in the Arctic, but all over the world is reason to be concerned. It’s also reason to take action!

Knowing what we do about the impact of climate change, it can be easy to feel defenseless or that this is a problem too large for us to even make a dent in. This, however, is hardly the case. While the carbon emissions of large industries like coal and oil need to be regulated, as an individual you have an incredible opportunity to start reducing your own carbon footprint. People are making small changes every day like choosing to walk or bike to work rather than driving, seeking out recycling bins for plastic waste, and even being mindful of the impact of their consumption choices. In keeping with this theme of doing small things, there is another solution that can have an enormously positive impact for the planet – and, it might just be the simplest one yet: changing the way you eat.

We all have the chance to lower our personal carbon footprints every time we sit down for a meal. By opting to eat fewer meat and dairy products in favor of plant-based alternatives, you can literally halve your own carbon footprint. How? Well, one of the largest drivers of greenhouse gas emissions is animal agriculture. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent.

As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.

To learn more about how you can use your food choices to fight climate change, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement.

Click on the graphic below for more information



Seaweed found to stop methane emissions from cattle rumen
By Thomas Hubert on 17 July 2017
  • Further research must now confirm in vitro findings in live animals.
    Further research must now confirm in vitro findings in live animals.

Successive in vitro studies have shown up to 100% reduction in the emissions of the potent greenhouse gas from grass digestion.

new study by Australian-based researchers shows that adding freeze-dried Asparagopsis taxiformis to test tubes replicating the fermentation process at work in a ruminant’s gut “completely inhibited the production of CH4” (methane).

The study led by James Cook University academic Matthew Vucko looked into various post-harvest treatments of the tropical red algae and found that “frozen and subsequently freeze-dried was the most effective processing method to maintain antimethanogenic activity”. It links the methane-inhibiting effect of the seaweed to the presence of the chemical compound bromoform.

Seaweed not only helped improve the cows’ health and growth, but also reduced their methane production

It builds upon research published last year, in which scientists added various types of seaweed to the fluid extracted from cattle’s rumen and observed gas emissions from the digestion of Rhodes grass. At the time, they found that adding 2% of asparagopsis taxiformis to the organic matter fed into the digestion process reduced methane emissions by at least 70% and up to 99%.

The latest study refined earlier findings to identify the treatment of seaweed most efficient at stopping methane formation.

According to Michael Battaglia of the Australian-based Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which supports the research, investigations started after a Canadian farmer noted the benefits of cattle grazing seaweed in 2005.

“Canadian researchers Rob Kinley and Alan Fredeen have since found that seaweed not only helped improve the cows’ health and growth, but also reduced their methane production by about 20%,” Battaglia wrote.

Climate change targets

The findings made since then are promising as agriculture represents one third of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, most of these under the form of methane from ruminants. EU targetsimpose cuts on these emissions to combat climate change.

Further research is needed to confirm the potential of seaweed in controlling methane emissions from live animals as opposed to laboratory apparatus.

Side effects may be an issue as bromoform “is toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects, is harmful if swallowed, causes serious eye irritation and causes skin irritation,” according to the European Chemicals Agency. The US National Library of Medicine adds that “chronic (long-term) animal studies indicate effects on the liver, kidney, and central nervous system (CNS) from oral exposure to bromoform,” which is also a “probable human carcinogen”.

Read more

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

Full coverage: agriculture and climate change