When it comes to climate change, periodically the topic of cows comes up. Eat less meat. Cows are contributing to climate change. This argument has always bugged me, and it's time for a deeper dive into this topic to determine if cows are a problem, how big of a problem they are, and get real about possible solutions and the tradeoffs involved. The first big question to ask gets right to the heart of the matter -- how does a cow contribute to climate change? I can understand the problem with fossil fuels. We are digging up carbon that has been buried for a millennia or longer and introducing it into the atmosphere. What is going on with a cow? It's born, it eats, it grows, and eventually dies. It's part of a shorter term cycle. How is this adding to the problem? Where is the extra carbon coming from? Was it just laying on the ground? Is it in the plants they eat? What if we are growing more plants to feed the cows? Wouldn't this offset the problem to some degree? If a cow is to be a problem, it has to be freeing carbon that was somehow trapped in something other than the air and introducing it into the air, in a way that is out of balance. And maybe that's the case. But someone really needs to explain this more openly so everyone understands. But for now, just to be cautious and for the sake of further argument, lets just assume that this is really happening. Next question. How big of a problem can this be? The easy way to look at this is at the individual level. As a beef eater and milk drinker (did you think of that? we need cows for milk too), how many cows am I responsible for? I will take a deeper dive into this in the days ahead. Next question. How is this different from any other mammal on the Earth? Expected answer -- it's probably not. This would suggest we could make tradeoffs. How many mammals, or pounds of mammals, or however you want to measure it, should be allowed for each human adult? Is it fair trade to allow cats and dogs to be euthanized at the pound instead of giving them a life in my home if I want to eat more meat? Can I choose to have 1 less child and eat more meat? Some amount of this -- lets call it mammal carbon -- should be okay; in cyclical balance; otherwise, every giraffe and panda on the Earth would be contributing to climate change just out of their very existence. Are you going to point your finger at a panda and blame it for contributing to climate change? So how much mammal carbon can I be responsible for without getting things out of balance? Logically, each of us should have some carbon budget, of which we can allocate however we like. Maybe there could even be a cap and trade system. Want to eat more meat but you are at your budget limit? Buy credits from a petless childless EV-driving vegetarian. We have now wrapped back around to looking at the overall greenhouse gas problem. We need to be clear and reasonably certain on how big of an impact each facet of the issue is, in order to know where we need to focus our efforts. The cow issue needs more attention, either to lend it it's due credit, or perhaps to discredit it's often stated significance. Where is the scientific research on the impact of livestock on global greenhouse gas emissions? I'm not interested in what Greenpeace or the cattle industry has to say. It needs to be peer reviewed science. I will be searching for this in the days ahead. Please feel free to share any links or information you may have as well.