When it comes to slowing down the alarming effects of climate change, there are a number of solutions that the government has suggested over the years. We’re usually told to conserve water by taking short showers and shutting off the water while we brush our teeth. We’re told to carpool and ride our bikes as much as possible to lower the number of cars on the road and in turn the levels of greenhouse gas emissions. What people are hardly ever told to do (at least not up until very recently) is to lower their consumption of meat and dairy. This is despite the fact that the meat and dairy industry is responsible for 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) annually. Well, the government is finally putting a bit of pressure to the dairy industry.

Just recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions tied to dairy cows and landfills. To be frank, it’s about time the dairy farmers are held accountable for their incredibly destructive practices. If you’re unfamiliar with how environmentally damaging dairy farms are, let us bring you up to the speed. Not only do dairy cows exhaust a startling amount of resources from water and food to land, but their bowel movements and burps are literally poisoning our air. How? Because these bodily functions release methane – a GHG that has the ability to trap up to 100 times more heat into the atmosphere than the much-more-talked-about carbon dioxide. We think it’s safe to say that in the climate change realm, methane is definitely as big of a problem as carbon-based greenhouses gases, if not more.

The new law will require dairy farmers to reduce methane emissions from manure to 40 percent below their 2013 levels by 2030. The dairy farmers won’t be doing this all on their own though, per usual, the government will lend them a helping hand in the form of $90 million in funding for the dairy industry and garbage collectors. They will also have the help of $50 million from the state’s fee charged to polluters, known as cap-and-trade. According to reports, the money will be used mostly for helping a handful of dairy farmers in purchasing dairy digesters, which use methane from manure to generate energy that’s sold to electrical utilities. The law will also allow the Air Resources Board to regulate cow flatulence if there’s viable technology to reduce it.

Now, considering the fact that this legislation is being put into action years after we’ve figured out just how much methane cows release and that the dairy industry accelerates climate change, you would think that the dairy industry would suck it up and deal with the new law. Plus the fact that they’re getting monetary help from the government to follow the plan through. And you know, the fact that they’re helping Earth. Unsurprisingly, the dairy industry did not take this new law well. Representatives are claiming that the move was “a direct assault on California’s dairy industry” and that this law “will hurt manufacturing by creating an arbitrary limit on natural gases which dissipate quickly.” This would be true … if the government didn’t grant them subsidies year round, buy up their excess supply, and pretty much help them sell cheese for the past five decades. Oh, and if methane could be removed from the atmosphere as quickly as it is produced . . . which is not possible with the current figures.

Once again, the dairy industry proves how much more they value profit over, well, everything. The good thing is, government leaders are finally putting their foot down and doing what’s right for the environment. This legislation does not just mark the beginning of a project to lower methane emissions and slow climate change, it signifies the end of the era of the dairy industry having the government in their pocket. Sure, the dairy industry may use media to fool the public and may lobby their hearts out, but they cannot expect the government to continue allowing them to ruin the environment. Hopefully, this move will inspire other government officials to finally put some hard and fast limits on the dairy industry and make them realize that enough is enough: this is our home, too.

We can all help lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with the dairy industry by simply choosing to leave milk and cheese off the menu. To learn more about how you can use your food choices to benefit the environment, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement. 

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