China clones cows that can produce twice as much milk
China cloned three “super cows” capable of producing much more milk than normal cows.
The claim: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bill Gates both said a cow produces ‘more pollution’ than a car
A March 1 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) features side-by-side pictures of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a brown cow.
“Bill Gates and AOC are now claiming that a cow emits more pollution than a car,” reads the text in the post.
The meme garnered more than 300 likes in four days. Other versions of the claim have circulated on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for over two years.
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Our rating: False
There’s no evidence that either Gates or Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, made this statement, or one like it. Both Gates and Ocasio-Cortez have, however, spoken about the effects of agriculture on climate change.
No evidence Gates or Ocasio-Cortez said a cow emits more pollution than a car
The social media user who made the March 1 post told USA TODAY the meme is satirical, although it was presented as a factual claim online and has been widely shared as a factual statement for years.
Gates, the billionaire Microsoft founder, has not said a single cow produces a greater amount of emissions than a car, according to a statement provided by Gates’ office.
No credible media outlets have reported Gates or Ocasio-Cortez said anything of the sort.
And no such statement appears in any of Gates’ press releases, blog posts or social media accounts.
There’s also no record of Ocasio-Cortez making such a statement in any press release, media appearance or social media post. USA TODAY reached out to Ocasio-Cortez for comment.
Both Gates and Ocasio-Cortez have spoken about the agriculture industry’s impact on the environment and climate change, however.
Gates has promoted and invested in the idea of eating synthetic meats and other plant-based proteins.
Similarly, Ocasio-Cortez has been an advocate for people to be more conscious about their dietary choices as a way to address climate change. She has also spoken about the environmental impact of factory farming.
USA TODAY has previously debunked a myriad of claims involving fabricated statements purportedly made by Gates and Ocasio-Cortez.
Fact check: Fabricated news article claims Ocasio-Cortez pushed lab-created meat to ‘eliminate farms’
Cars emit more greenhouse gases than cows, say experts
Both cars and cows emit various greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Cars produce carbon dioxide as a result of burning fuel. Ruminant animals that chew their food twice like cattle create methane as a result of their digestive process, called enteric fermentation.
Though Gates and AOC haven’t compared them in the way the claim asserts, experts have.
Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson Shayla Powell said when just the direct emissions for a single cow and transportation vehicle are compared, the greenhouse gasses emitted by cows and cars are “relatively close.”
The EPA says the average car produces 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide manually. Alan Rotz, an agricultural engineer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said beef and dairy cows emit an average of about 3.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide per cow per year, so slightly less.
But experts also say directly comparing one cow and one car in this way lacks sufficient nuance.
“It’s not a great comparison, because we know the lifecycle emissions for livestock, but not for transportation,” said Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist at the University of California, Davis. “We don’t account for building vehicles, moving them, maintenance and so on. We just know tailpipe emissions.”
Furthermore, the different greenhouse gasses emitted by cars and cows affect the atmosphere differently. While methane from cattle stays in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide from cars, the methane is considerably more potent in terms of warming the atmosphere, Mitloehner previously told USA TODAY.
Fact check: Fossil fuels are the largest contributor to climate change, not animal agriculture
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the posts for comment.
PolitiFact and Australian Associated Press also debunked this claim.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, Nov. 17, 2022, Fact check: All mammals, including cattle, produce greenhouse gases
- USA TODAY, Dec. 5, 2022, Fact check: Fossil fuels are the largest contributor to climate change, not animal agriculture
- USA TODAY, Nov. 29, 2022, Fact check: No, Bill Gates didn’t tell G-20 leaders ‘death panels’ will soon be required
- USA TODAY, July 14, 2020, Fact check: A fake tweet claims AOC urged governors to shut down businesses to hurt Trump
- USA TODAY, Jan. 16, 2021, Fact check: Fake tweet used to claim AOC called for a ‘purge’ of conservatives
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accessed March 6, Press releases
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accessed March 6, Facebook page
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accessed March 6, Twitter page
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accessed March 6, Personal Twitter page
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accessed March 6, Instagram page
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accessed March 6, Personal Instagram page
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Feb. 5, 2019, Twitter post
- Alan Rotz, March 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Bill Gates, accessed March 6, Twitter account
- Bill Gates, accessed March 6, Instagram account
- Bill Gates, accessed March 6, Facebook account
- Business Insider, Feb. 22, 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explains ‘farting cows’ and a 70% tax on the ultra-rich on ‘Desus & Mero’
- CLEAR Center, July 7, 2020, Why methane from cattle warms the climate differently than CO2 from fossil fuels
- Climate Nexus, accessed March 6, Animal Agriculture’s Impact on Climate Change
- EPA, June 30, 2022, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle
- EPA, accessed March 6, Overview of Greenhouse Gases
- EPA, accessed March 6, Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- EPA, Feb. 15, Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data
- Frank Mitloehner, March 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Frank Mitloehner, Nov. 14, 2022, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- Gates Foundation, accessed March 6, Media Center
- Gates Notes, accessed March 6, The Blog of Bill Gates
- Gates Notes, Oct. 29. 2021, This is how we build a zero emissions economy
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report, accessed March 2022, Summary for Policy Makers
- MIT Technology Review, Feb. 14, 2021, Bill Gates: Rich nations should shift entirely to synthetic beef
- Shayla Powell, March 15, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Australian Associated Press, April 13, 2022, No, Bill Gates never said a cow emits more pollution than a car
- PolitiFact, Aug. 15, 2022, Bill Gates and AOC never said cows emitted more pollution than cars
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