Miles traveled by your breakfast?

‘Food miles’ account for about 11 percent of the carbon emissions that are contributing to Earth’s changing climate.

The World Watch Institute has published a great article explaining the complex way in which our U.S. agricultural system – and by extension the food systems of the rest of the western world – contribute to global carbon emissions.

Is Local Food Better?
by Sarah DeWeerdt – published in the latest issue of World Watch magazine – explains that miles traveled by our food from farm to table are not the whole story in calculating the contribution of agriculture to carbon dioxide emissions.

Food delivery from farms and factories to your table accounts for only 4 percent of the U.S. food system’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the article.

More emissions come from the transport of fertilizer, pesticides, and animal feed. When these extra activities are considered, ‘food miles’ account for about 11 percent of carbon emissions, writes DeWeerdt.

Climate scientists – true experts, who study our world’s complicated climate using computer models and other tools of science – are now in near unanimous agreement that human-caused carbon emissions are causing Earth to warm. Meanwhile, only about half of non-experts (other sorts of scientists, the public) believe human-caused emissions are the problem. Those results come from a study by Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman released in the January 2009 issue of EOS. Good explanation of that study here.

Deborah Byrd