It’s time to shut down industrial animal farming

It's time to shut down industrial animal farming
© Getty Images

While governments act aggressively to save lives, stop any further spread of COVID-19, and reopen their economies, let’s not wait to prevent the next virus. More will come. Pandemics are picking up their pace. Thankfully, prevention is entirely possible — especially now that behavior change is on the table.

All it takes is a willingness to reconsider how we consume, trade, and treat animals. Big ask? Maybe. But everything should be on the table when hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.

Here’s the opportunity: If we stop packing animals into crowded, confined areas — to be slaughtered for protein or parts — and if we stop cutting down and endangering their habitat, we can avoid infectious, animal-borne diseases like COVID-19, SARS, the swine flu, and more. (For these reasons, and more, Goldman Sachs now says livestock commodities are looking as ‘precarious as oil’ and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker are calling for a ban on factory farms.)

That’s right. No more lockdowns. No more makeshift morgues. No more market crashes.

It’s that simple. If we want to save human lives and prevent mass casualties from COVID-like catastrophes, all we have to do is rethink and reconfigure our relationship with the animal world.

Now that social distancing is a common practice among most populations, to prevent the transmission of the virus, that’s now what animals need to be able to do, too. But in nature. We’ve already altered 75 percent of their land habitat and two-thirds of their marine habitat. That has to stop, now.

A failure to do so — or worse, by locking them up in factory farms in Waco, Texas, and wet markets in Wuhan, China — makes it all the more likely that another deadly pathogen, which should’ve stayed in nature, gets passed to humans.

While presidents and governors will prefer to emphasize that the next deadly virus is controllable primarily through better detection, monitoring and quick response — which is, of course, essential, too — the only real way to truly safeguard society is to stop the industrial and factory farming of animals.

Here’s how bad it’s become: globally, concentrated animal feeding operations — or CAFOs — account for 72 percent of the poultry we consume, 42 percent of eggs, and 55 percent of pork production. In the United States, over 50,000 facilities classify as CAFOs, with another 250,000 industrial-scale facilities just below that classification.

How many animals are confined in these crowded and virus-friendly conditions? In the U.S., that’s 9 billion chickens, 250 million turkeys, 113 million pigs, and 33 million cows — annually.

That’s almost 10 billion ways to start a virus — in just one year in the U.S. alone. And we know that America’s pigs, as just one example, here — most of which are farmed in industrial facilities without fresh air or sunlight — can kill thousands of Americans with a simple swine-flu virus. Over 12,000 Americans died from H1N1 in 2009 — and remember that was from factory farms in the United States.

Seemingly, no federal guidelines are governing how these animals are used and abused. And many U.S. states are trying to punish those who speak out against these cruel factory farms, which is why Animal Legal Defense Fund, and others, are providing these animals fair representation in court. It’s good someone is. A failure to protect these animals results in a failure to protect our health.

Compounding these health concerns, of course, is industrial animal farming’s heavy use of antibiotics, which ends up leaving humans — who consumed antibiotic-laden animal products — all the more vulnerable to bacteria during a pandemic. The result of all of this? People are more susceptible to attack from a diseased, factory-farmed animal.

And if health reasons weren’t sufficient to win the hearts and minds, perhaps economics will. Industrial animal farming is the least efficient and most expensive way to provide protein to humans. It’s two-three times as valuable as plant-based proteins and incredibly inefficient use of cropland, grains, and water for animal consumption (akin to have multiple middle-managers in a supply chain). Turn those crops into direct plant-protein providers for humans — a much more efficient plant-to-mouth supply chain — and we could easily, and nutritiously feed our growing population — as many as 10 billion by 2050.

That’s the opportunity here. And sure, we could also talk about all of the environmental problems associated with industrial animal farming, which include toxic waste, dangerous and deadly pesticide use, and excessive and exorbitant greenhouse gas emissions that come from animal products. Beef protein’s carbon footprint, for example, is 150 times as high as the same amount of plant protein. But if that hasn’t yet motivated people to switch off their factory-farmed animal food, perhaps the prospect of another pandemic will.

All of this seems way too risky to continue. And until we leave this practice behind, putting animals in unhealthy, crowded and immune-compromised positions — as we are doing globally with our factory farms, wet markets, and more — will continue to put us in similarly immune-compromised positions and kill tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people, each time these pandemics pop up. It’s time to do better. It’s time to save human lives. It’s time to shut down industrial animal farming.

Michael Honda is a former Member of Congress Honda now serves on the board of local Silicon Valley startups and is working on the legislative campaign to repeal the Alien Enemy Act of 1798. Michael Shank is a former congressional staffer and adjunct faculty at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs.

Study Finds that Cows Talk and Show Compassion Just Like Humans

STUDY FINDS THAT COWS TALK AND SHOW COMPASSION JUST LIKE HUMANS

cows talk

When we think of compassionate, intelligent creatures, cows normally don’t come to mind.

However, cows actually communicate how they feel to one another through their moos, according to a new study. The animals have individual vocal characteristics and change their pitch based on the emotion they’re feeling, according to research at the University of Sydney.

Alexandra Green, a Ph.D. student at the university and the study’s lead author, said:

“Cows are gregarious, social animals. In one sense it isn’t surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life.”

She said it’s the first time they’ve been able to study voices to obtain evidence of this trait.

THE STUDIES ON THE COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN COWS

Studying a herd of 18 Holstein-Friesian heifers over the course of five months, Alexandra found that the cows gave individual voice cues in different positive and negative situations. This behavior helps them communicate with the herd and express excitement, arousal, engagement, or distress.

Talking about the animals she studied, Ms. Green said:

“They have all got very distinct voices. Even without looking at them in the herd, I can tell which one is making a noise just based on her voice.”

She would record and study their “moos” to analyze their moods in various situations within the herd.

“It all relates back to their emotions and what they are feeling at the time,” she said.

adorable photos
Check out these adorable pics of babies and pets.

Previous research has discovered that cow moms and babies use their voices to communicate individuality.

However, this new study shows how cows keep their individual moos throughout their lives, even if they’re talking to themselves. The study found that the animals would speak to each other during mating periods, while waiting for or being denied food, and when being kept separate from one another.

The research analyzed 333 cow vocalizations and has been published in Scientific Reports.

“Ali’s research is truly inspired. It is like she is building a Google translate for cows,” said Cameron Clark, an associate professor at the university.

Ms. Green said she hoped this study would encourage farmers to “tune into the emotional state of their cattle, improving animal welfare.”

cows
Here are 16 vegan tofu recipes to try.

ANIMAL COMMUNICATIONS

Studies have shown that animals communicate with one another in similar ways to humans, taking turns in conversations. This is beneficial in the animal kingdom to communicate needs, such as where food sources are at or if the herd needs to move locations. It can also help animals communicate about an incoming threat so they can respond accordingly.

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT COWS COMMUNICATING

This research shows that animals are intelligent, sentient beings and deserve our respect. Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise as people are waking up to how eliminating meat from our diets can positively impact health as well as show compassion to other living beings. Also, cows contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions, producing 37% of methane emissions resulting from human activity. One study showed that one cow, on average, produces between 70-120 kg of methane a year.

This is significant because across the globe, there are around 1.5 billion cattle. Many scientists are coming together to talk about how a plant-based diet could greatly help to slow down climate change.

Study: Climate impact of butter 3.5 times greater than plant-based spreads


https://www.businessgreen.com/news/4012376/study-climate-impact-butter-times-plant-spreads

The climate impact of butter is higher in large part due cow's methane-heavy farts
The climate impact of butter is higher in large part due cow’s methane-heavy farts

Cow’s methane-heavy burps and farts blamed for CO2 associated with butter in study commissioned by margarine maker Upfield

The climate impact of consumer diets has yet again fallen under the spotlight, after research this week concluded butter is 3.5 times more harmful to the environment on average than margarine and plant-based spreads, due in large part to cows’ methane emissions.

The study was commissioned by global margarine maker Upfield – responsible for plant-based brands including Flora, Rama and Blue Band – in another sign of how firms are seeking to promote the climate credentials of their products to increasingly eco-conscious consumers.

It asked scientists to carry out a large-scale life cycle assessment looking at the production, transport, sale, and use of 212 plant-based spreads and margarines sold across 21 European and North American markets, and then compare their greenhouse gas emissions to the impact of 21 dairy butters.

The results found the average CO2 impact for every kilogram of plant-based spread and margarine produced was around 3.3kg, compared to 12.1kg of CO2 equivalent for dairy-based products, making emissions from butter around 3.5 times higher.

The bulk of emissions associated with butter occur during milk production, according to the study, which found enteric emissions from cows – aka methane from burping and farting – made up 39 per cent of greenhouse gases from dairy-based spreads.

It means that just one 250g of butter results in the equivalent of 1kg of cow emissions, the study estimated, with methane a particularly potent greenhouse gas which is around 80 times more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat, and responsible for around a quarter of global warming.

Every one of the 212 plant-based spreads analysed fared much better in the study in terms of carbon impact, with associated emissions ranging from less than 1kg to almost 7kg, whereas butter products generated between over 8kg to nearly 17kg of CO2 for every kilogram produced.

Beyond emissions too, the life cycle assessment – the largest of its type to date, according to Upfield – concluded that margarines and plant-based spreads consistently had lower impacts than butter in terms of climate, water and land.

Cattle feed production including cow burps, farts, and manure management “contributed significantly to climate change impacts, with a higher impact than most other factors”, the study found. Some farming groups have argued that new diet supplements and other technologies can serve to curb methane emissions from cattle, but the industry is still regarded as a large and growing source of emissions.

Sally Smith, head of sustainability at Upfield, said the study highlighted the need for a “fundamental transformation of our food system” in order to tackle climate change, arguing that people in western countries needed to cut down on their meat and dairy intake.

She also argued it was important for firms to help consumers to understand the impact of their food choices on the planet. “It is our responsibility as a forward-thinking company to understand and act to address the impact of our plant-based products on the environment,” said Smith. “A shift to regenerative agricultural practices will be key for both arable and dairy farmers. Robust lifecycle assessments help ensure that our approach is data driven and grounded on the latest scientific evidence.”

On World Day for Farmed Animals, Let’s Honor Who They Are

The amount of pain and suffering these animals endure is incalculable.

Posted Oct 02, 2019

Over 150 million animals are killed for food around the world every day—just on land. That comes out to 56 billion land animals killed per year in the U.S. alone. Including wild-caught and farmed fishes, we get a daily total closer to 3 billion animals killed.” 

October 2 is World Day for Farmed Animals. On the website for the annual recognition of what these billions of nonhuman animal (animal) beings go through at the hands of humans before they’re brutally killed for unnecessary meals we read:

“Each year, an estimated 70 billion cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other sentient land-based animals are caged, crowded, deprived, drugged, mutilated and macerated in the world’s factory farms. Then they are brutally slaughtered for our dinner table. Countless aquatic animals are caught and suffocated by vast trawler nets, so we can have our fish fillet or tuna fish salad.”

When fishes and other water animals are thrown into the equation—billions of these sentient beings also are farmed animals—the number easily swells to trillions of animal beings killed each year on food farms and in the wild.

Slaughtering sentience: How much pain per pound do these animals suffer?

“…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes…”  —Jeremy Bentham

It’s a sad fact that the amount of pain and suffering these animals endure before they’re killed truly is incalculable. So-called “food animals,” including fishes and other aquatic animals, are intelligent and sentient, feeling beings. (See “It’s Time to Stop Pretending Fishes Don’t Feel Pain.”) When someone eats animals and animal products, they’re consuming a good deal of pain and suffering. While many people are led to believe that consuming dairy is OK, because the animals are kept alive, dairy animals also deeply suffer when they’re used and abused as “milk machines.” (See “The Scary Facts of Dairy Violate the Five Freedoms” and “The Mistreatment of Female ‘Food Cows’ Includes Sexual Abuse.”)

It’s also important to recognize that “being smart” really isn’t a factor in how much animals, including humans, suffer. It’s what they feel that’s important. (See, for example, “Are Pigs as Smart as Dogs and Does It Really Matter?” and references therein.) A young girl once asked me if so-called “food animals” suffer like her companion dog suffers when he’s in pain. When I said, “Yes, they do,” she blanched and almost started crying.

At another talk I was asked, “How much pain per pound do these animals suffer?” and I said that it was really impossible to calculate any meaningful number, but it’s a good question to get discussions going about what these animal beings endure in their relatively short and horrific lives.

Those who choose to eat other animals and animal products also endure a good deal of cognitive dissonance. On many occasions, I hear people lament something like, “Oh, I know they suffer, but I really like my _____.” You can fill in the blank with meat, beef, pork, bacon, chicken, fish, lobster, and so on. (See “‘Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak'”: The self-serving resolution of the ‘meat paradox.‘”)

I often hear people say that farmed animals aren’t treated all that bad and that there are regulations and laws that adequately protect them. However, it’s a fact that the regulations and laws that supposedly protect farmed animals are incredibly weak and weakly enforced, and egregious violations are very common.

Far too much lip service is given to protecting these amazing and fascinating animals. And it’s because people—including those who use them and eat them—know that there is incredible and inexcusable suffering among the trillions of food animals who wind up in humans’ mouths that regulations and laws exist in the first place. If these animals didn’t suffer, there would be no reason to protect them. Current regulations allow for more than 1,100 pigs to be slaughtered per hour.

Even with iconic animal welfarist Dr. Temple Grandin’s work to help farmed food animals along, the amount of pain and suffering farmed food animals endure is reprehensible, and, of course, avoidable. Only an extremely tiny percentage of these sentient beings may, in fact, benefit, as they trod along her so-called “stairway to heaven” on their way to the killing floor while hearing, seeing, and smelling the slaughter of others. Their lives before their death sentence are actualized—right after birth, as they mature, and when they’re shipped to slaughterhouses as if they’re unfeeling objects—and are inarguably, brutally horrific. (See “Stairways to Heaven, Temples of Doom, and Humane-Washing” and “My Beef With Temple Grandin: Seemingly Humane Isn’t Enough.”)

The language we use to refer to other animals really matters. On World Day for Farmed Animals, let’s honor all nonhumans who are used for food. It’s really a matter of who we eat, rather than what we eat, when it comes to the sentient nonhumans who wind up in our mouths. A few years ago, after I gave a talk and asked people to consider who they are choosing to eat rather than what they were eating, I learned that five people changed their meal plans because the word who made them realize “they were eating pain and suffering.”

Asking people to change their meal plans isn’t some sort of “radical animal rights” move, as some claim it to be. In fact, it’s all about decency. It’s about showing respect and compassion and honoring who these individuals really are: namely, deeply feeling sentient beings. We need a Golden Rule for how we treat other animals based on decency. Silence isn’t golden; it’s deadly.

It’s high time to phase out food animals and animal products once and for all. All of these animal beings need all the help they can get and then some. World Day for Farmed Animals is a perfect time to honor and to respect who these fascinating beings truly are.

References

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201910/world-day-farmed-animals-lets-honor-who-they-are

Chemical maker DSM sees strong demand for methane-reducing cow feed additive

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch specialty chemicals company DSM is expecting strong demand for its feed additive which limits the amount of methane burped into the air by cows, its contribution to the global fight against climate change.

Methane has a much larger effect on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2) and reducing methane emissions could buy time to confront the much bigger challenge of cutting the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

“We see a lot of demand already, from food producers and farmers”, DSM’s Clean Cow program director Mark van Nieuwland told Reuters in an interview, even though the launch of the additive, Bovaer, is still more than a year away.

“Large (food) companies have clear climate targets, and they need farms to change to meet those. Also consumers are increasing pressure on farmers and many farmers themselves want to limit emissions.”

Swiss KitKat and Nescafe maker Nestle this month said it wanted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, while French dairy maker Danone has said it wants to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030.

Cows constantly burp up the powerful greenhouse gas methane but DSM says including Bovaer in a cow’s diet could cut these emissions by at least 30%.

“Giving this to only three cows will have the same effect as taking one car off the road”, Van Nieuwland said.

DSM expects to launch Bovaer in Europe either late next year or in early 2021. It is currently waiting for authorization from the European Union to label it as an environmentally beneficial product.

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The company estimates that Bovaer has a potential global market value of 1 to 2 billion euros and aims to expand into other markets soon after the European launch.

DSM has made a profitable switch from bulk chemicals to sustainable food ingredients and materials, growing sales of animal feed products to around 30% of its 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) in total sales last year.

“We have to deal with methane in the next 5 to 10 years if we want to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees”, Van Nieuwland said.

Bovaer cuts methane emissions when mixed into a cow’s feed by inhibiting an enzyme in the digestion process which normally causes the release of the gas.

After ten years of research the Dutch company says it has dozens of global peer reviewed studies backing its claims and showing no effect on the health of cows or the milk they deliver.

The trial will run from November until February 2020, and the results are expected to be applicable throughout Europe, DSM said.

“This can have a real impact and we want to make it as big as possible”, Van Nieuwland said. “The faster we move, the better.”

‘Terrible way to go’: Humane society wants changes after hundreds of cows killed in blaze

Animal welfare group says barns no longer are mandated to have certain safety requirements

Firefighters battling a barn fire northeast of Steinbach on Monday morning. (Steinbach Online)
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An animal welfare group is calling on Manitoba’s provincial government to review how animals are being housed, after 800 cows were killed in a barn fire northeast of Steinbach, Man.

Brittany Semeniuk, an animal welfare consultant for the Winnipeg Humane Society, spoke on CBC Radio’s afternoon show Up To Speed, one day after the devastating blaze at Pennwood Dairy. She said the prevalence of such events drives home the need for changes.

“They do occur in a very high frequency and I mean I don’t need to convince anyone that perishing within a fire where you’re trapped in a building is a terrible way to go,” Semeniuk told host Ismaila Alfa.

Pennwood Dairy was one of Manitoba’s largest dairy producers. Of its 1,000 cattle, only 200 lived through the blaze, according to the Steinbach Fire Department.

Fire chief Kelvin Toews said the fire was the “probably the largest barn fire” the department has ever had to deal with.

“We’ve had barn fire where we’ve lost one or two barns, but this is quite a sizeable loss,” he said.

Manitoba previously had its own farm building code, but Semeniuk said in 2017 the general Manitoba building code replaced it.

She said the problem started with recent repeals and amendments of security and fire protection requirements in low-occupancy buildings, which are recommended in the dairy industry, but not always practised.

“They follow the codes of practice for their own industry which is governed through the National Farm Animal Care Council, but within these codes of practice none of these codes are mandatory,” she said.

Semeniuk said in the past 10 years about 40,000 hogs have bee killed in barn fires, and just a few months ago almost 27,000 chickens were burned alive.

“A thousand pigs or a thousand chickens could still be qualified as low human occupancy, despite having a large number of animals, but because barns proved to be a lower safety hazard than human health, it was generally accepted to remove a lot of those previous precautions,” she said.

Semeniuk says protecting animals from fires isn’t the only reason for such precautions — allowing them to enjoy a certain quality of life is also important.

“They can’t perform their basic behavioural needs like foraging and flying and rooting and things like that,” she said. “It is currently not required to provide dairy cows with any sort of access to the outdoors.”

Simply put, Semeniuk said the humane society wants better living conditions for animals and to provide them basic welfare requirements.

Regulations for barn standards are put into place by the fire commissioner, who will routinely provide updates and necessary changes to how new barns need to be constructed, according to David Wiens, a member of the board of directors for the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.

“As we go along, there’s new regulations that come in place. New barns that are being now have fire barriers within the barn to prevent the rapid spread of the fire,” he said.

Wiens isn’t entirely sure of the makeup of the barn that caught fire, but said four barns were attached to one another.

The Officer of the Fire Commissioner of Manitoba said they do not keep track of livestock losses. The fire is still under investigation.

We must transform food production to save the world, says leaked report

Cutting carbon from transport and energy ‘not enough’ IPCC finds
Hereford beef cattle.  The IPCC report says meat consumption should be cut to reduce methane emissions.
 Hereford beef cattle. The IPCC report says meat consumption should be cut to reduce methane emissions. Photograph: Australian Scenics/Getty Images

Attempts to solve the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions from only cars, factories and power plants are doomed to failure, scientists will warn this week.

A leaked draft of a report on climate change and land use, which is now being debated in Geneva by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land.

Humans now exploit 72% of the planet’s ice-free surface to feed, clothe and support Earth’s growing population, the report warns. At the same time, agriculture, forestry and other land use produces almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, about half of all emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, come from cattle and rice fields, while deforestation and the removal of peat lands cause further significant levels of carbon emissions. The impact of intensive agriculture – which has helped the world’s population soar from 1.9 billion a century ago to 7.7 billion – has also increased soil erosion and reduced amounts of organic material in the ground.

It is a bleak analysis of the dangers ahead and comes when rising greenhouse gas emissions have made news after triggering a range of severe meteorological events. These include news that:

 Arctic sea-ice coverage reached near record lows for July;

 The heatwaves that hit Europe last month were between 1.5C and 3C higher because of climate change;

 Global temperatures for July were 1.2C above pre-industrial levels for the month.

This last figure is particularly alarming, as the IPCC has warned that rises greater than 1.5C risk triggering climatic destabilisation while those higher than 2C make such events even more likely. “We are now getting very close to some dangerous tipping points in the behaviour of the climate – but as this latest leaked report of the IPCC’s work reveals, it is going to be very difficult to achieve the cuts we need to make to prevent that happening,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

The new IPCC report emphasises that land will have to be managed more sustainably so that it releases much less carbon than at present. Peat lands will need to be restored by halting drainage schemes; meat consumption will have to be cut to reduce methane production; while food waste will have to be reduced.

Among the measures put forward by the report is the proposal of a major shift towards vegetarian and vegan diets. “The consumption of healthy and sustainable diets, such as those based on coarse grains, pulses and vegetables, and nuts and seeds … presents major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.

There also needs to be a big change in how land is used, it adds. Policies need to include “improved access to markets, empowering women farmers, expanding access to agricultural services and strengthening land tenure security”, it states. “Early warning systems for weather, crop yields, and seasonal climate events are also critical.”

The chances of politicians and scientists achieving these goals are uncertain, however. Nations are scheduled to meet in late 2020, probably in the UK, at a key conference where delegates will plant how to achieve effective zero-carbon emission policies over the next few decades.

The US, the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, will have just had its presidential elections. A new Democrat incumbent would likely be sympathetic to moves to control global heating. Re-election of Donald Trump, who has called climate change “a hoax”, would put a very different, far gloomier perspective on hopes of achieving a consensus.

Humanity’s climate ‘carbon budget’ dwindling fast

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The concept of a carbon budget is dead simple: figure out how much CO2 humanity can pump into the atmosphere without pushing Earth’s surface temperature beyond a dangerous threshold

The concept of a carbon budget is dead simple: figure out how much CO2 humanity can pump into the atmosphere without pushing Earth’s surface temperature beyond a dangerous threshold (AFP Photo/PATRIK STOLLARZ)

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Paris (AFP) – The concept of a carbon budget is dead simple: figure out how much CO2 humanity can pump into the atmosphere without pushing Earth’s surface temperature beyond a dangerous threshold.

The 2015 Paris climate treaty enjoins the world to set that bar at “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) in order to avoid an upsurge in killer heatwaves, droughts and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas.

Last year, the UN’s climate science body concluded this already hard-to-reach goal may not be ambitious enough.

Only a 1.5C cap above pre-industrial levels, for example, could prevent the total loss of coral reefs that anchor a quarter of marine life and coastal communities around the globe, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a landmark report.

But calculating exactly how much CO2 — produced mainly by burning fossil fuels but also deforestation — we can emit without busting through either of these limits has been deceptively hard to calculate.

Indeed, scientific estimates over the last few years have differed sharply, sometimes by a factor of two or three.

“The unexplained variations between published estimates have resulted in a lot of confusion,” Joeri Rogelj, a lecturer at Imperial College London, told AFP.

To help clear up that muddle, Rogelj and colleagues set out to solve the carbon budget puzzle — or at least make sure that everyone is reading from the same page.

This seemingly academic exercise, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, has huge real-world repercussions.

“The trillion-dollar question is how much of a carbon budget do we have left?”, Rogelj said.

– Wild cards –

About 580 billion tonnes, or gigatonnes (Gt), of CO2, if we’re willing to settle for a 50 percent chance of capping global warming at 1.5C, according to the October IPCC report, for which Rogelj was a coordinating lead author.

At current CO2 emission rates — 2018 saw a record 41.5 Gt — that budget would be exhausted in less than 14 years.

The CO2 allowance for a coin-toss chance of holding the rise in Earth’s temperature to 2C is more generous, about 1,500 Gt, and would last roughly 36 years.