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Scientists Race To Develop Livestock That Can Survive Climate Change 291

Posted by timothy
from the just-need-to-outrun-you dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Evan Halper writes in the LA Times that with efforts to reduce carbon emissions lagging, researchers, backed by millions of dollars from the federal government, are looking for ways to protect key industries from the impact of climate change by racing to develop new breeds of farm animals that can stand up to the hazards of global warming. ""We are dealing with the challenge of difficult weather conditions at the same time we have to massively increase food production" to accommodate larger populations and a growing demand for meat, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. For example a team of researchers is trying to map the genetic code of bizarre-looking African naked-neck chickens to see if their ability to withstand heat can be bred into flocks of US broilers. "The game is changing since the climate is changing," says Carl Schmidt. "We have to start now to anticipate what changes we have to make in order to feed 9 billion people," citing global-population estimates for 2050." (More below.)
"Warmer temperatures can create huge problems for animals farmed for food. Turkeys are vulnerable to a condition that makes their breast meat mushy and unappetizing. Disease rips through chicken coops. Brutal weather can claim entire cattle herds. Some climate experts, however, question the federal government's emphasis on keeping pace with a projected growing global appetite for meat. Because raising animals demands so many resources, the only viable way to hit global targets for greenhouse gas reduction may be to encourage people to eat less meat and point to an approach backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates that takes animals out the process altogether. "There's no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people," says Bill Gates. "Yet we can't ask everyone to become vegetarians. We need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources.""
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Scientists Race To Develop Livestock That Can Survive Climate Change

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  • by aduchate (656665) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:13AM (#46917961)

    So the basic idea is : Cows produce methane that participates to the global warming. But because cows might not survive the climate change, we are going to create super-cows than are immune to this self-regulating mechanism instead of let's say switch to bugs.

    Really sounds like a great idea.

    I imagine that when we have really screwd the climate for us, we will have to come up with genetically engineered human beings that will drive heavily modified cars that are working OK when it's 60C.

  • are you kidding? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:14AM (#46917963)

    Are you kidding? Earth's atmosphere is:
    78% Nitrogen
    21% Oxygen
    1% everything else and of that 1%, 93% is argon and 3.6% of that 1% is CO2, that is how little CO2 is actually in the atmosphere, and CO2 is a necessary ingredient for plant life. Google CO2 generators and you will see that they are for sale to increase plant growth in green houses and aquariums. More plant growth = more food for humans.

  • by Akratist (1080775) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:18AM (#46917979)
    It's long past time that we got out of the nationalist, playground bully mentality that we're stuck in, and start collectively working together to address global warming, resource depletion, and the fact that we will go extinct much sooner if we don't start looking at ways to get off of the Earth permanently. I don't really know how to get that ball rolling, except to say that people need to start decoupling these issues from politics and moral/religious squabbles, and recognize that it's a matter of shared survival.
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:20AM (#46917987) Journal

    We've already passed "Peak Child" and the human race is in decline. So, the premise that we need to ramp up food production to cope with a growing population is a false one. If there's not enough meat for everyone in the short term, we feed the young and able bodied first, then the parents of the young and able bodied, then whoever is left, in that order.

  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:22AM (#46918003) Homepage
    Just playing devil's advocate here, but if there is so little CO2 in the atmosphere and changing it's level can change how the atmosphere affects us, isn't that basically showing how delicate our environment can be?
  • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:25AM (#46918027) Homepage Journal

    We've already passed "Peak Child" and the human race is in decline.

    Non sequitur. People are not dying fast enough. Life expectancy increases everywhere.

    So, the premise that we need to ramp up food production to cope with a growing population is a false one.

    Non sequitur. Even if the population decreases, demand for meat is currently soaring, especially in the so-called emerging markets. This means drastically more land area and more water is needed than for growing traditional, primarily vegetarian diets.

    If there's not enough meat for everyone in the short term, we feed the young and able bodied first, then the parents of the young and able bodied, then whoever is left, in that order.

    More like, people with money will get the meat by paying for the land and water in other countries, while the people there starve. All this is already happening.

  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:27AM (#46918037)

    Look up 'climate model CO2/Water vapor positive feedback coefficient' and understand how easily climate models can be manipulated to produce any result.

    There is a reason that energy boards treat modeling as an adversarial process. It is more like lawyering then science.

  • by plopez (54068) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:30AM (#46918061) Journal

    No money to stop climate change but we have plenty of money to save the fast food industry.

  • Re:why cows? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:31AM (#46918071)

    Fair enough: One vote for a police state. We will all be better off without red meat. Farmers should never be allowed to respond to market conditions. What could go wrong? It's not like anything similar has been tried previously.

    Read some history. Too much government power is very bad.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:32AM (#46918077)

    Vegans and vegetarians can and have lived perfectly normal and healthy lives. Often times far longer than their meat-gorging counterparts.

    To stand up and state we must fix this problem, as if the meat industry is somehow absolutely necessary for the human race to survive is nonsense, and reflects poorly on the person stating it (yeah, that would be you, Bill).

    And yes, I realize we would likely shift food shortages to plants by doing so, but I'm willing to bet we can make a plant better suited for climate change far easier than we can modify a much more complex organism that evolved over thousands of years to the climate today.

    Greed won't allow this to happen. We're not allowed to even speak badly against this industry that we cannot label corrupt.

  • by plopez (54068) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:37AM (#46918113) Journal

    Because there's a lot of money to be made in fossil fuels. Just ask the Koch (pronounced "kock") brothers. Greed is not good.

  • Re:why cows? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:37AM (#46918115) Homepage

    "Red meat offers very little and is harmful to the human body in many ways.".

    Yes the harm it does to Olympic athletes and cyclists is a warning for everybody. Nobody needs iron, zinc and those fat-soluble vitamins from meat if Walgreens has them in little bottles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:40AM (#46918133)

    You can't stop climate change, at most you can prevent disruption of the natural climate change.
    To do this you will need to find a solution that is a progression from the current state rather than a regression. (That is, replace current technology with more climate neutral alternatives rather than remove them.)

    If your solution is anywhere close to "I want everyone to stop whatever they are doing." you might not necessarily meet opposition, but you will have to fund the movement yourself.

  • by plover (150551) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:41AM (#46918137) Homepage Journal

    That's also one of the things that they're trying to change about cattle and other ruminants. Breed a cow that digests more efficiently, and it'll produce less methane.

    But I agree - beef is a very costly food in terms of resources needed to produce it. Now, if we could just breed people to eat hay ...

  • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:52AM (#46918209)
    Models are good when all of the relevant inputs and variables are known and included. Even simple systems are often difficult to model accurately. For climate models, it seems scientists are discovering new inputs/variables on a regular basis. Modeling is necessary and even imperfect models can help us understand what may happen, particularly when it comes to assessing the impacts of certain changes on an isolated basis. Of course, nothing happens on an isolated basis. I do hate it when folks "over predict" the eventual impact of warming without admitting the great uncertainty that is included.

    Many models have been designed to somewhat accurately mimic our historical records, but that approach can be misleading, as the modelers are striving for the correct output regardless of the correct input, kind of a 'self fulfilling prophecy'. Good science requires discipline, and there are scientists out there that have the right discipline, and those who don't. There is good science happening, and there are flags that tell you who is practicing it and who isn't. Look for those that understand and admit the uncertainties along with their results, and realize the importance of communicating them.

    The best way to know if a model is working is to leave it untouched and see if it predicts accurately. That takes time, and many don't think we have that time.
  • One word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:01AM (#46918277)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:03AM (#46918281)

    LOL "grant money". Oh, this magical, bottomless well of moolah that exists solely to tempt scientists into lying for decades. I'll bet energy companies had wished they'd thought of that! Those poor, struggling corporations dream of someday being able to bribe scientists and op-ed writers and politicians to make dishonest statements that benefit their bottom line. But you know, greed and profit just aren't motivators for dishonesty the way... Uh.... "grant money" is??? (Oh, right, I forgot, those evil liberals want to be enslaved by the government and to destroy America forever. That's actually why liberals do anything. Totally makes sense as a motivation.)

  • I have to wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aepervius (535155) on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:06AM (#46918307)
    I have to wonder , I always see such uneducated comment in global warming thread. In the mean time I have come to the conclusion that people truly never try to educate themselves, they grasp at the slightest of the information they might have overheard in their live, without checking if that experience is actually supported, then stick to it forever.

    To the op, it is not about absolute quantity but about relative effect. A very small change in CO2 is enough to retain much more warmth (trap IR longer). Same with other molecules by the way , like CH4, SF6... Only the half life of those limit their effect. But why bother, you (or any of the ignorant posting the same drivel) will simply skip it and post their ignorance again at the next GW thread.
  • by Layzej (1976930) on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:51AM (#46918617)
    The range is small enough to make informed decisions. The range is constrained by observations as well as models. Observations are what is pushing the high end of the spectrum, not models. You are ascribing motives to people who you don't know or understand which is just silly.
  • Re:Vegetarian (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Insightfill (554828) on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:52AM (#46918621) Homepage

    Hate to be the one to point out the obvious... but the solution is not in changing the meat it is in reducing and/or eliminating the meat.

    Slate recently had [] a decent article examining all of the impacts of a world that's entirely vegetarian. Interesting stuff.

    (My family is vegetarian, even my kids. People stopped asking "where do you get your protein?" when they see my kids, who each were tallest in grade school. My youngest daughter was 5'6" at age 10.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @10:04AM (#46918703)

    They already tried that with lead in the gasoline but it was eventually proven that the lead in the gasoline was contaminating the environment so it had to come out.

    But what's needed isn't more research into better form of carbon fuel use but alternatives like Thorium for the base demand and better batteries to store the excess from solar and wind generated power and to power things like cars and trucks. Once you can create a battery that is as energy dense as gasoline, can be recharged as quickly as a gasoline tank can be filled and costs no more to build and operate than an internal combustion engine then you'll have no reason to hold onto the old carbon fuelled economy.

  • Re:Vegetarian (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Monday May 05, 2014 @10:10AM (#46918751)

    I also hate to be the one to point this out, but given a free choice much (not all) of the world population starts consuming meat once given the economic means to do so.

    In a world that seems to be lurching towards greater individual autonomy and personal choice, your solution does not strike me as likely to get off the ground. At the end, you'll either have to adopt more and more coercive action to meet your goal or accept that there are billions of independent agents with different preferences.

  • many were worried about this phenomena leading to many economists recommending people have more kids to keep the economy growing due to population growth...

    Holy hell, we're finally bringing Earth's population numbers under control and they want to undo this progress!? Is there anything economists won't recommend to keep their stupid little game running!?

  • by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Monday May 05, 2014 @12:30PM (#46920011)
    How is beef costly in resources? Where I live land that is unstable for farming or anything else is grazed. The cows keep the bushes clean and make worthless land valuable.

"The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults." -- Peter De Vries