GHG Mandela Effect?
By M.P. Cremer
Definition of the Mandela Effect: “The Mandela Effect is a type of false memory occurring when many different people incorrectly remember the same thing. It refers to a widespread false memory that Nelson Mandela, South African human rights activist and eventual president, died in prison in the 1980s.” – Medical News Today
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve written or said some statement about using good, valid sources in this column or while public speaking, I’d be able to purchase a brand-new pickup, an accompanying horse trailer and a new Polaris Ranger to run around in. Today, I’m going to add another dollar to that amount, but this time, it’s not so preachy.
If you read my column last week, you know, although I didn’t focus the entire piece on sustainability, I did make a one-off comment about it.
The statement read: Why, on God’s green earth, do people blame agriculture for global warming when 2020 data for the U.S. only cites ag as contributing to 11 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while transportation contributes to 27 percent?
Now, I know the above statistic by heart. It’s from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website – I quote it and site the EPA all the time. But, just to double check and make sure the EPA hadn’t updated their website with 2021 data yet, I did a quick search for the webpage where the EPA posts carbon emission information.
I scrolled along and saw my favorite statistic – the one previously stated – and decided to take a gander at global GHG emissions.
Now, before we go further, I must warn you: The statements I’m about to make may be incredibly false. I wish, for the life of me, I could swear up and down the next few paragraphs are 100 percent accurate, but I sadly cannot.
I understand this may put my reputation as a truth telling journalist at risk, but I also feel I can’t not talk about the weird data I saw on the EPA’s page. So please, believe all of the rest of this story at your own risk and know what I’m about to say is what I believe to be true, but also, if the EPA came to me with hard data, I would absolutely admit I was wrong. So, back to scrolling on the EPA’s webpage.
The first thing I saw was a big pie chart breaking down the different types of GHG emissions; then I scrolled to see another pie chart breaking down which economic sectors contributed the most to global GHG emissions.
First rattle out of the box, I see 25 percent of GHG emissions come from electricity and heat production which has always been a leading emitter. The second thing I saw was a bit more peculiar, which was data stating Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) contributed to 24 percent of global GHG emissions.
According to the EPA, “AFOLU (24 percent of 2010 global GHG emissions) GHG emissions from this sector come mostly from agriculture (cultivation of crops and livestock) and deforestation. This estimate does not include the CO2 ecosystems remove from the atmosphere by sequestering carbon in biomass, dead organic matter and soils, which offset approximately 20 percent of emissions from this sector.”
As I read those words, my jaw dropped – literally. Why did my jaw fall open when I saw this statistic, you ask?
I’ll tell you why. When I started Activists vs. Agriculture in 2019, I worked at the Western Ag Reporter as the assistant editor. I spent lots of my time writing about GHG emissions because it was a big topic in agricultural news. I remember multiple times citing data from 2017 which said, globally, agriculture as a whole contributed to about 16 percent of GHG emissions.
Again, I could be wrong on this and if I am, I’m very sorry. However, the next thing I saw is even more odd than the potentially misremembered and false 24 percent debacle: the data cited was collected in 2010 and published in 2014.
Rule number one of source validity is using timely sources. “Timely” in the academic world means referencing research conducted in the past seven years. The only exception to this rule is if there is no further data to back up your claims.
You can’t tell me the EPA doesn’t have more recent data on climate change, a topic dominating newsrooms, friendly conversations, elections, Netflix documentaries and Facebook debates for years now.
My point here is, even if I did remember AFOLU GHG contributions or the year in which the data was published wrong, the EPA shouldn’t be touting 2010 research on their website.
I guess it is nice they did add in the statement saying 20 percent of those emissions are offset by the AFOLU sector, meaning they’re reporting this sector is regenerative and sustainable.
And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s a total Mandela Effect; maybe I completely misremembered the original statistics and the year it was collected; maybe the EPA really can’t get their hands on more recent data.
But, maybe I am right. Maybe this all is a big conspiracy to put the blame on ag; maybe the EPA is using invalid or, dare I say, “faulty” data. Either way, I don’t like it, and now I’m questioning the trust I had in what I’ve always thought was a government funded, unbiased organization.
To my readers: I really, really, reallly hope I’m wrong because I like using the EPA as a trusted source. If you think you can prove me wrong (or prove me right), e-mail me at email@example.com.