Gerber noted that the FAO will not do country profiles, however. “We won’t disaggregate by country because our data is not accurate enough and I think there is also the risk of pointing fingers,” he said. “So, for now, we will do political regions, we’ll do climatic zones, we’ll do farming systems, but across boundaries.”

Mitloehner and Gerber complained, respectively, that the media’s focus on conflict and attempts to cast the former’s criticism as yet another blow to climate science are “regrettable” and “pour oil on the fire.” The two men clearly disagree on some fundamental points, and the FAO’s comparison between livestock and transportation emissions is indeed a newsworthy mistake. But the impression left by most news articles is one of scientists bogged down in disagreement—when, in fact, there is a lot of consensus about how research could be improved.

Indeed, it seems fair to say that Mitloehner and Gerber agree on three points: the need to do a lifecycle analysis for the transportation industry; the need to “disaggregate” livestock statistics; and the need to reduce the environmental impact of both industries.

“I think it’s time that we work across the globe really on transferring knowledge and help particularly those areas like India and China to produce in a way that is as environmentally benign as possible,” Mitloehner said. “I think we have that responsibility. So it would be nice if we would take some of the politics out of the discussion and really focus on getting things done and resolved and addressed.”

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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.