Stehfest et al. in Climatic Change:
A global transition to a low meat-diet as recommended for health reasons would reduce the mitigation costs to achieve a 450 ppm CO2-eq. stabilisation target by about 50% in 2050 compared to the reference case. Dietary changes could therefore not only create substantial benefits for human health and global land use, but can also play an important role in future climate change mitigation policies.
Converting the globe, billions of people, to vegetarianism seems to be the same as saying ‘Let’s have a global war and kill all the meat eaters.’
Although killing all the meat eaters would decrease the meat eaters’ need for energy and their resultant CO2 production. 😉
It also ignores all the complications listed in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” such as the fact that grass grows in harsh climates where corn doesn’t and cows derive nutrition from eating grass while humans don’t.
Can we get practical suggestions, please?
“Converting the globe, billions of people, to vegetarianism seems to be the same as saying ‘Let’s have a global war and kill all the meat eaters.’”
Thankfully, there’s no such suggestion in this post. It’s also consistent with Michael Pollan’s conclusions in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, and his follow up “In defense of Food,” the gist of which he summarizes as Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
In principle, I agree. The problem is scale. With 6.75 billion people on earth, if they each need 1,500 calories a day (a very low number) to survive, then we need 11 trillion calories of food a day just to feed people. I am ignoring the calories required for agriculture and the energy that goes into heat, air conditioning and driving around.
I am glad that you read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ , a book that I love and which seems to point out part of the problem. The bigger problem seems to be “Where do you get 11 trillion calories a day that can be extracted by humans from what they eat?”. Most of the calories in grass can’t be extracted by us.
If someone has an answer at the scale required, please share.
There is no “problem” as you present it. Were it true that livestock(I assume you’re talking about cattle) are pastured you’d have a point, but the vast majority of meat is now produced with grain, in feedlots. In fact, I believe that over half of all US grain production is fed to livestock. If we were to only eat meat fed on grass we would indeed be on a low-meat diet. Restricting cattle production to pasture would free up huge amounts of grain for human consumption.
BTW, if you haven’t read it, I recommend “The Botany of Desire” which is Pollan’s best book in my opinion.
Thanks for the heads up on “Botany of Desire”. I have only read one of Pollan’s books so far. I love his content and his writing style.
Does the solution of feeding cattle on grain work only for the U.S. or does it extend to other countries? India comes to mind.
I am not picking on you or your thoughts. I have just not seen a solution that scales to more than the U.S. Nor have I seen any solid numbers for the U.S. The numbers that I would like are scalability, price per person, and the cost of taking land from other uses.
I may be more critical than normal. I have spent the weekend finding out that the numbers for CO2 sequestration by algae do not scale, in spite of claims that they do. At the moment, it appears that much of Ohio would have to be covered with algae farms just to remove 30% of the CO2 that Ohioans generate through their electricity usage. I apologize if I, inadvertently, have taken that frustration out on you, but I need real numbers not just claims.
“Does the solution of feeding cattle on grain work only for the U.S. or does it extend to other countries? India comes to mind.”
I don’t understand what you’re asking. I’m suggesting that feeding cattle on grain is the problem,not the solution. As far as India goes, eating beef is taboo.
I’m simply saying there would be no shortage of food if most people were to move to a low-meat diet.
I don’t know what numbers you want, but here are some:
“The numbers that I would like are scalability, price per person, and the cost of taking land from other uses.”
Again, it would require less land to feed as many people on reduced-meat diets.
Interesting link. Thanks.
The number of complications behind Pimentel’s world view is staggering. Immediiate complications include economic, political, and nutritional, as well as the track record of such sweeping statements as Pimentel makes of being wrong and causing great damage. For instance, as you know, the food pyramid was incorrect for decades to the detriment of Americans.
It will take a while to digest all this information. Thanks for providing it.
I’m late to the party, but the issue is one of scale, yes. The scale at which so much more water and land is needed to produce 1 kg of grain protein vs 1 kg of meat protein.
That is: replacing that land used for meat protein production with grain protein production will more than feed 9B people.
We cannot go on producing protein as we do now. The ecological effects will be disastrous. Many are saying stop eating meat once a week. That’s a great start. Then we can do two, then three. Once most people see that the world will not stop rotating on a low-meat diet, eating meat once or twice a week only for, say, 75% of the population will solve a lot of our problems.
The scale at which so much more water and land is needed to produce 1 kg of meat protein vs 1 kg of grain protein.
Isn’t much of the planet, e.g. India, China, and Africa already eating meat at most once a week? So they would not be cutting back at all. What is the number of times per week that an average person (of the 6.75 billion) eats meat and how much do they eat? I don’t know these numbers.
The issue is that as they gain wealth, they eat more, which moves ag activity onto more marginal land.
The FAO has many trendlines for meat consumption for parts of the world, as does WorldWatch.