Why doesn't Al Gore acknowledge the benefits of reduced meat consumption?
Posted Sep 01 2008 7:17pm
Here's an excerpt from an interview with John Robbins on the topic of How to Live Sustainably. He brings up the same point I was stuck on when I saw the movie An Inconvenient Truth
Q: Isn't it also interesting that the ethical arguments around not eating meat are so strong yet the environmental ones are equally strong? Neither needs the other to prop it up; each stands on its own as reason enough to follow a plant-based diet.
A: (John Robbins) Yes, and they are also totally congruent. It is rare in life that something is this clear; usually there's at least some trade-off. But what's best for animals is also best for us and for the planet. The whole discussion regarding the environmental impact of modern meat production was something I brought forward in Diet For A New America and have been working to raise awareness of ever since then. It has had quite a boost in the last few years.
In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released a report entitled Livestock's Long Shadow. It looked at the direct impact of meat production and also at the impact of the feed crop agriculture required for meat production.
The report stated that meat production is the second or third largest contributor to environmental problems at every level and at every scale, from global to local. It is responsible for land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, species extinction, loss of biodiversity and climate change. HenningSteinfeld, a senior author of the report, stated, "Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation."
Al Gore, in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, ignored this whole issue completely. He hasn't changed his position since, despite the UN coming out with this massive report. When is Gore going to get it?
The FAO report is considered the most definitive, comprehensive and reliable assessment we have. And it states that livestock production generates a staggering 65% of the nitrous oxide produced by human activities, and this greenhouse gas has an even more staggering 296 times the Global Warming Potential of carbon dioxide. The FAO concluded that overall, livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport. What that means is meat production contributes more to global warming than all the trucks, cars and planes in the world combined.
The Live Earth concert handbook stated that "Refusing meat is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint." Even Environmental Defence, a group which has justifiably been called Bush's favourite environmental group, calculates that if every meat eater in the US swapped just one meal of chicken per week for a vegetarian meal, the carbon saving would be equivalent to taking half a million cars off the road.
In 2006, a University of Chicago study found that a vegan diet is far more effective than driving a hybrid car in reducing carbon footprint. "Vegetarianism is the new Prius" is a phrase I heard recently. But it's actually more effective than driving a Prius. If you're going to drive a car a hybrid vehicle is the way to go, there's no doubt about it. But as the FAO report stated, all the SUVs, Hummers, trucks, ships and planes in the world contribute less to the problem than meat. The meat-eating Prius driver has a bigger carbon footprint than the vegan Hummer driver, not that there are probably too many of those!