Prof Frank Mitloehner warned viewers of the Alltech Ireland Environmental Forum this week that a reduction of the national herd in Ireland will not do anything for climate change.
Mitloehner, who specialises in greenhouse gases and air quality, outlined that because Ireland exports so much of what it produces that production would have to happen somewhere else.
The professor spoke about carbon leakage where greenhouse gas emissions are increased in one country because emissions have been reduced in another country.
He stated: “Any kind of adaption of your herd size would be picked up by somebody else.”
“At the end of the day, you wouldn’t do anything to our climate by reducing your herd sizes. That is really important.”
To me, it’s not climate leadership to say we will stop producing food to bring our emissions under control and not worry about where that food might be produced elsewhere
The professor, based in California, outlined that if all US citizens participated in “meatless Monday” the country’s carbon footprint would only reduce by 0.3%.
He said that if the entire US changed to a vegan diet, emissions would only reduce by 2.6%.
Meanwhile, at the same event, Tom Arnold, chair of the agri-food strategy 2030 committee, noted that Ireland “will not achieve long-term targets if the herd increases”.
Prof Frank O’Meara, director of research at Teagasc, said: “To me, it’s not climate leadership to say we will stop producing food to bring our emissions under control and not worry about where that food might be produced elsewhere. We have to try take all those factors into account.”