Saturday, 19 December 2015

Climate change: 'a balanced diet produces six per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than a typical meat-rich diet'

There have been several stories coming out of the UN conference on climate change:
Lord Lawson's climate think-tank under review after adviser offers to write paper for sham oil company | Environment | The Independent
Global Warming Policy Foundation: The wealthy backers behind the climate change sceptics | Environment | The Independent

But one story which particularly caught the media's attention was that of the former Governor of California exhorting us eat less meat:
Arnold Schwarzenegger urges people to save the planet at Paris Climate meet | Daily Mail Online
Eat less meat – or else: the Terminator - Food Manufacture

Today's Independent carried comment by Janet Street Porter, which, for all of her insistence, agrees pretty much with what Arnie has to say:

At the Paris climate conference, the Terminator, former bodybuilder and ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered an impassioned rant ordering us to give up meat two days a week to reduce greenhouses gases...

My 5:2 regime means all the conflicting arguments are covered in one week. For five days I eat a veggie breakfast of fruit, nuts and seeds followed by wholemeal heavy bread, topped with mashed avocado or raw tomato. On Saturday and Sunday, I eat a full English breakfast: bacon, egg, mushrooms and toast with marmalade.

Now we know that even vegetarianism is bad for the planet, it’s time you Greens embraced my diet | Voices | The Independent

But the question of lettuce came up in Janet's piece - and has been brought up everywhere:

Lettuce 'three times worse than bacon' for the environment, scientists claim

Greenhouse gas emissions from lettuce production are three times higher per calorie than from bacon, study finds

A bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Photo: © Brent Hofacker / Alamy
Eating lettuce could be three times worse for the environment than bacon, scientists have claimed.
Despite calls from celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sir Paul McCartney for people to eat less meat to help save the planet, new research suggests that ‘healthier’ diets with more fruit and vegetables could actually be worse for global warming.
The study, by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, compared the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of 1,000 calories of different foods.
“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” Professor Paul Fischbeck, one of the report’s authors, concluded.
Researchers found that men who regularly ate processed meat had significantly lower amounts of normal sperm.Greenhouse gas emissions from pork production are three times lower than from lettuce production, per calorie.  Photo: ALAMY
Lettuce is so low in calories that someone would need to eat at least two whole iceberg lettuces to get close to the calorie intake of two rashers of smoked back bacon.
As a result, the emissions from transporting bulky lettuces are far higher per calorie than those from pork.
'The study confirms meat, poultry and egg food groups as a whole are relatively high sources of greenhouse gases compared to vegetable, grains, pulses and sugars'
Antony Froggatt, Chatham House
Lettuce is also far more likely to perish before it reaches the dinner table, with the food waste further increasing its emissions footprint.
Other vegetables fared far better than lettuce, with cabbage producing a fifth of the emissions of pork per calorie, and broccoli producing less than half the emissions.
Beef and lamb produce far more emissions than pork or chicken, and beef is still worse than lettuce for emissions, Prof Fischbeck said.
However, the study found that switching to the balanced diet recommended by US health officials – including more fruit, vegetables, dairy products and seafood – produced six per cent more greenhouse gas emissions overall than a typical American’s current meat-rich diet.
Antony Froggatt, senior research fellow at Chatham House, which recently recommended a meat tax to help tackle global warming, said: “The study confirms that meat, poultry and egg food groups as a whole are relatively high sources of greenhouse gases compared to vegetable, grains, pulses and sugars.
“Therefore reducing consumption of the former food groups, which is also recommended from a health perspective, in this, and other studies, can be an important opportunity of greenhouse gas emissions savings.”
The livestock sector accounts for about 15 per cent of global greenhouse emissions – the same proportion as direct emissions from cars, planes, trains and ships combined.

Lettuce 'three times worse than bacon' for the environment, scientists claim - Telegraph

See also:
Futures Forum: Climate change: it's cool to be vegetarian
Futures Forum: Climate change: the role of livestock and agriculture.......... or: "Can steak save the planet?"

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