With all the global warming already baked in from current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas loading, we ought to be decarbonizing our economies and our societies just as fast as we can. Ain't gonna happen. You know it. I know it. The Petro-Pimps of Parliament Hill intend to see to it. They've got the filthiest, highest-carbon ersatz petroleum to flog and they're aiming to sell as much of it as they can just as fast as they can. Your little grandkids? Screw 'em.
Meanwhile the fast emerging economies are scouring the world for cheap energy wherever they can find it. Bitumen, sure. Coal, of course. Natural gas, if they can get it cheap enough. Doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter that many of these rapidly industrializing countries are also in line for the worst impacts of climate change. Oh hell, they'll think of something, won't they? Sure "they" will.
But hard-working people who suddenly find themselves with a little change in their pocket want to eat and they want to eat - meat.
A new report in the journal, Science, finds that meat is all the rage and it's killing us.
Meat consumption is rising annually as human populations grow and affluence increases. Godfray et al. review this trend, which has major negative consequences for land and water use and environmental change. Although meat is a concentrated source of nutrients for low-income families, it also enhances the risks of chronic ill health, such as from colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. Changing meat consumption habits is a challenge that requires identifying the complex social factors associated with meat eating and developing policies for effective interventions.By now you're probably yawning. You're right, you've heard this all before. It's just another fine study recapitulating the warnings that we've so consistently ignored for years.
The global average per capita consumption of meat and the total amount of meat consumed are rising (see the figure), driven by increasing average individual incomes and by population growth. Growth rates vary across different regions, with consumption in high-income countries static or declining and in middle-income countries moderately to strongly increasing, whereas in low-income countries, meat consumption is on average low and stable. There has been a particularly marked increase in the global consumption of chicken and pork. The consumption of different types of meat and meat products has substantial effects on people’s health, and livestock production can have major negative effects on the environment.
Meat produces more emissions per unit of energy compared with that of plant-based foods because energy is lost at each trophic level. Within types of meat, ruminant production usually leads to more emissions than that of nonruminant mammals, and poultry production usually leads to less emissions than that of mammals. Meat production is the single most important source of methane, which has a relatively high warming potential but a low half-life in the environment compared with that of CO2. Careful management of grassland systems can contribute to carbon storage, but the net benefits are likely to be relatively modest. Agriculture uses more freshwater than any other human activity, with nearly a third required for livestock, so meat production in water-stressed areas is a major competitor with other uses of water, including that required to maintain natural ecosystems. Meat production can be an important source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants and affects biodiversity—in particular, through land conversion to pasture and arable feed crops.
When it comes to meat and the environment, the survival of our and other species of life on the planet, it's like treating a diagnosis of lung cancer by going from a two pack a day habit to three or three-and-a-half. It's crazy but all nihilism is basically crazy. Our response is abject fatalism.