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Meat Your Emissions


The carbon emission implications of this are pretty terrifying:

For every newly converted vegetarian, four poor humans start earning enough money to put beef on the table. In the past three decades, the earth's dominant carnivores have tripled our average per capita consumption; in the next four decades global meat production will double to 465 million tons.

That comes via Tyler Cowen, who found it in James Workman's new book, "The Heart of Dryness." Keep in mind that livestock production is a larger contributor to global warming than transportation. But there's been virtually no progress in persuading rich or poor countries to worry much about this fact.

Photo credit: Dario Lopez-Mills -- Associated Press Photo.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 24, 2009; 9:24 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change , Food  
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I know it isn't polite to point out, but when you eat an animal, you are causing unnecessary suffering, regardless of carbon emissions. We can each make ethical choices at every meal -- the choice that causes less suffering. A Boca burger over a chicken sandwich goes a long way towards making the world a better place!

Posted by: AZProgressive | September 24, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse


good luck with that.
did you see yesterday's article here, about a naturalist on bbc, who thinks that it is time to "pull the plugs" on pandas, and let them fade into extinction?
and then, the video of glenn beck, gratuitously dropping frogs into boiling water, to create an insane metaphor?
or the recent story about "a monster" that washed up on the shores in panama. if it is a true story, the teenagers tossed rocks at it, and hit it with sticks.......til they killed it.
and....that creature is being called "the monster."
who are the real monsters?

Posted by: jkaren | September 24, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the socialists in Congress can be persuaded to stop subsidizing the corn that makes all that beef production so cheap.

Yeah, right.

The problem is government, again, but Klein is a cheerleader for more of it, apparently unable to fathom the far flung havoc his advocacy engenders.

Here's a postulate: You can't have socialist health care without socialist agriculture.

Here's another: Socialists can't fix socialist-caused problems.

Posted by: msoja | September 24, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

AZprogressive: different people have different nutritional needs. There are some people (I don't know what fraction of the population, but more than zero) who simply can't be healthy on a vegetarian diet. On the other hand, plenty of people can be healthy as long-term veggies -- and so for them, the question of ethics is quite reasonable. I don't see the ethics as cut and dried in favor of vegetarianism, but it's a question that I do think warrants attention.

Ezra: I'm on a mission with these comments, so here goes again... proper methods of raising animals, especially larger animals such as cattle or bison, are environmentally friendly, including being net negative on the carbon-emissions front due to the promotion of carbon sequestration in root growth and topsoil formation. These methods have also been shown capable of increasing biodiversity and reducing desertification. See, for example, the work of Holistic Management International, which has case studies of ranchers who had some mix of simultaneously reducing erosion, increasing biodiversity, recharging water flows, increasing profits, increasing human food production, and reducing the cost/unit of that food. ( -- for their brochure style presentation on carbon, In other words, the consumption of meat that is raised appropriately--but only if it is raised appropriately--can be a pro-climate choice.

Posted by: JonathanTE | September 24, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Nice propaganda shot. How PETA'esque. Of course, sausage making is never a pretty thing.

If you had wanted to be just a bit more honest, you'd have illustrated the crime of meat with something along the lines of this:

Oh yeah, what's the carbon footprint of a half-pound of ground beef compared to a box of breakfast cereal? We all have our weaknesses.

Posted by: leoklein | September 24, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: rt42 | September 24, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

"Keep in mind that livestock production is a larger contributor to global warming than transportation."

And can't forget having more kids.

But where does one find this out?

Posted by: rt42 | September 24, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Transportation is a big chunk of US GHG emissions, but globally it's down the list, behind electric power generation (i.e. coal), agriculture, and deforestation.
If what you're after is money, though, Exxon is an easier target.

Posted by: tl_houston | September 24, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the spam comment about socialism does raise a great idea, namely that a phaseout of corn subsidies would both have a net positive impact on the county's health and save a ton of money. Too bad the Blue Dogs and other deficit hawks tend to be from agribusiness supported areas.

Posted by: etdean1 | September 24, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"spam comment"? That you agree with?

Let the confusion reign.

Posted by: msoja | September 24, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I see your heart is in the right place; unfortunately your answer to the chat question on finding a good veggie restaurant in DC didn't help educate anyone on vegetarian diets, nor did it help the person who asked.

If people like you would promote veg restaurants maybe we'd have more, and have more competition, which ought to improve matters, yes?

And for the person looking for a restaurant, it's just not helpful to suggest a restaurant that only has a few options for vegetarians or god help us, vegans. It's really depressing to look at a menu and realize the choices are limited to, if you're lucky, 2 or 3 options. That's why vegetarians almost always prefer a 100% veg restaurant, btw. We like choices in our menus the way some people like choice in their health care.

Posted by: KathyF | September 25, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Um, there is no such thing as 'global warming' to worry about. Temps have flat lined for 10 - TEN - years. Remember when they said we had to worry about 'run away global warming'! What a laugh.

Posted by: Grabski | September 26, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

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