Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Vegetarians to save the world?

In today's Times, Lord Stern entreats us all to become vegetarians to combat climate change. That's certainly not going to win him many supporters. After all, humans are omnivores and meat eating is a trait we share with a significant proportion of the creatures on our planet. I accept his point that rearing livestock for meat is hugely resource-inefficient - the same resources would go many times further if directly consumed - although I suspect he may be overstating the contribution of methane from cattle to global warming. But that's really not the point.

As with so many sustainability issues, moderation is the key. I'm sure that the right to eat meat would be fiercely defended if it came under threat, but many would accept the idea that consumption should be reduced. The Meat-free Monday campaign takes exactly this approach. Far better to ask people to consider dropping meat one day a week, or at lunchtime, or eating smaller portions - the impact per person might be relatively modest, but the take-up exponentially larger, almost certainly resulting in a better net reduction.

And, let's face it, we're all fed up with politicians interfering in our lives - especially when their own actions are so often at odds with their advice.


Canada Guy said...

Lifestyle changes, such as going vegetarian, could slow emissions growth slightly, they will not reduce emissions. Personal lifestyle changes can only have an impact of a few percent at most. We cannot ignore the other 95 percent of the problem. Suggesting that we can forget about caps and just focus on behavioural changes is insane.


TRC said...

Couldn't agree more, carbon budgets are essential if we are to get anywhere close to the emissions reductions we need. UK is making a start, with the Carbon Reduction Commitment from April 2010. I'd be interested to know if anything similar is tabled in other countries.