(1/23/09 – UK Guardian) Germany’s environment agency has recommended to German citizens that they should lower meat consumption, if they want to lower their carbon footprint and stop global warming.
Speaking at Berlin’s Grüne Woche (Green Week), Andreas Troge, president of the UBA (Germany’s environment agency) said:
“We must rethink our high meat consumption. I recommend people return to the Sunday roast and to an orientation of their eating habits around those of Mediterranean countries.”
Troge explained that agriculture was responsible for 15% of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and that meat production was the most energy-intensive form of farming. I have to admit it is surprising to hear, considering that Germany is a world leader in terms of meat consumption (39% of Germany’s total calorie intake derives from meat and meat products, compared with 25% in Italy). It’ll be interesting to see how citizens react.
Edmund Geisen, agricultural adviser to the liberal Free Democrats, was not pleased with Troge’s message.
“Andreas Troge should stop trying to damage the nation’s appetite by discrediting agricultural production,” he said, calling his attack on meat “populist and one-dimensional”. “Our enlightened consumers should decide for themselves what they want to eat.”
Enlightened consumers deciding for themselves? It is an argument we hear often. But how many consumers are aware that the price of meat does not reflect it’s environmental costs? I bet not many. Troge’s message will help consumers make more educated and enlightened decisions about their carbon footprint, rather than dwell in ignorance.
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New Scientist Magazine reports that researchers from the Netherlands have concluded that cutting back on meat could save $20 trillion off the cost of fighting global warming.
According to the study (published Feb. 2009), if the world were to adopt a low-meat diet (defined as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week) there would be a 50% reduction in costs to stabilize carbon dioxide levels at 450 parts per million, a level that some scientists say is needed to help prevent dangerous droughts and sea level rises.
The savings would be a result of:
- A drop in livestock numbers which would significantly decrease methane levels and livestock feed levels ( to produce a kilogram of beef, or 2.2 pounds, farmers also have to feed a cow 15 kg of grain and 30 kg of forage).
- The availability of 15 million square kilometres of farmland which could be used instead for vegetation to absorb and reduce CO2 levels and to plant bioenergy crops to displace fossil fuels.
Elke Stehfest, one of the researchers, says the environmental cost of meat should be included in the purchase price. Journal reference: “Climate benefits of changing diet” (DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6)
This is huge news. $20 Trillion dollars is a lot of money (duh). But I think most of us would agree that it isn’t easy for people to switch to low-meat or no-meat diets. So why not take the time and resources to show people that such a diet is necessary?
What if more people took the time to teach each other about how to adopt a low-meat diet? What if nonprofits, businesses, and governments invested in education programs (i.e., cooking classes, t.v. shows perhaps) to teach citizens about low-meat diets?
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