It is often said that meat is among the most damaging foods from a climate change perspective. However, I don't quite understand why that is true, in the long run.
Disclaimer: I am a vegan for animal rights reasons, however I still want to understand those who make the environmental case against beef.
If I understand correctly, the primary contribution of beef production to climate change is the burping and farting the cows do when they digest their food.
Now, all carbon dioxide emitted by human and animal bodies should be carbon neutral. This is because we get our carbon from the food we eat and that food was just recently grown, the plants having built themselves out of carbon from the atmosphere. Thus, so long as we don't eat coal, we are all solar powered with a delay of a few months (or slightly longer, for non-vegans). The same must be true for farts, except that because methane is far more potent (maybe 20-30 times) as a greenhouse gas, it does more damage, once emitted, than the CO2 (captured a few months prior) that it is replacing. However, methane in the atmosphere is short lived: It breaks down to carbon dioxide after only about 12 years. So shouldn't this mean any environmental damage from cow burps and farts is temporary, lasting only 12 years? And shouldn't this mean that if meat consumption remains constant the planet would only warm a little for that amount of meat consumption and not continue warming?