Is The Next Big Climatologist Fight Over Beef?

That’s what Slate thinks, and they could be right

Last week the nation’s top nutrition advisory panel unveiled 500-odd pagesof advice for the federal agencies tasked with writing the nation’s dietary guidelines. Tucked among the usual recommendations—eat more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains; eat less fat, salt, and sugar—were a few small coffee- and egg-themed surprises and one giant green one. Americans, the panel said, should consider the environment when deciding what to eat and what not to.

If that sounds like common-sense advice, that’s because it is. Climate scientists and nutrition advocates have been saying it for years. But the simple recommendation may end up sparking Washington’s next knock-down, drag-out climate fight between Big Business and the Obama administration.

It’s common-sense advice to consider whether what you eat might add a nano-fraction or less of CO2 to the atmosphere? First world problem.

The climate case for such a suggestion has been well-covered by now, but a quick refresher: Livestock is responsible for 14.5 percent of the world’s human-caused emissions, nearly half of that coming from the resources needed to grow and ship the corn and soy that most of the animals eat, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. A meat-eater’s typical diet, meanwhile, is responsible for almost twice as much global warming as your typical vegetarian’s and almost triple that of a vegan, according to a report published in the journal Climatic Change last summer. That Oxford University study suggested that cutting your meat intake in half could cut your carbon footprint by more than 35 percent. Beef is particularly damaging to the planet. According to the National Academy of Sciences, it results in five times more GHG emissions than pork or chicken, while requiring 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water.

Not mentioned is that most of the GHGs are from methane, not CO2.

If Obama does decide to press forward, it will open up yet another front in Washington’s climate wars—with Republicans denying the science while decrying what they see as the nanny state run wild. That’s not to suggest Obama shouldn’t press forward—as my colleague Alec MacGillis has explained, the president’s come to terms with the fact that if he wants to go at all on climate, he has to go it alone—just that doing so will take political capital.

Of course, that’s navel gazing by writer Josh Vorhees, because Obama has made no statements whatsoever regarding this, but Voorhees desperately wants Obama to push for people to eat less meat.

When will Climatologists give up their own eating of beef?

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2 Responses to “Is The Next Big Climatologist Fight Over Beef?”

  1. The Neon Madman says:

    Bah! If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?

    And you’ll get my bacon only from my cold, dead hands, too.

  2. Nighthawk says:

    It looks like they are pushing the “beef is bad for the environment” schtick because of the revelation recently that beef being bad for you is bunk.

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