The United Nations wants us to eat less meat to reduce our carbon footprint.
People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world’s leading authority on global warming has told The Observer
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.
I hope he knows more about climate change than diet because health professionals are generally agreed that we shouldn’t eat too much meat at all and that three to five small servings of lean red meat a week is enough.
So we should already be having a couple of meat-free days if we want to lower our risk of heart disease and some cancers. But urging us to do it for environmental reasons is more contentious.
Obesity is literally a growing problem for some but others are starving because the world is short of protein and the mad rush to replace fossil fuels with bio fuels is one of the reasons for that. This prescription for meat-free days could also have unforeseen consequences without reducing carbon emissions.
I hope the work on climate change for which the doctor is so highly regarded is more credible than his pronouncement on meat eating because he doesn’t seem to realise that that some people going without meat doesn’t necessarily alter the number of animals being farmed and the total amount of meat being eaten. Farmers might keep the same size of herds and find new markets and customers for their produce.
Also not all meat production is equal. The extensive grasslands production methods used in New Zealand, Australia and Argentina has a much lower carbon footprint than intensive grain fed systems employed in most of Europe – even when you take into account transporting the meat part way round the world to get it to the market.
Crop production and processing isn’t necessarily equal either. While generally producing a given amount of nutrients from crops may result in lower carbon emissions than producing the same amount from meat; some meat production could be more carbon-efficient than growing, harvesting and producing some crops.
The science is not settled on climate change and unscientific pronouncements like these from Dr Pacahuri only add to the questions.
[Bob Edlin has a related post at Dig n Stir.]
Hat tip: Inquiring Mind