cannonedhamster 8 days ago

This article essentially just makes the claim that if you do nothing magic will make climate change go away. He didn't disprove the claim that vegetarianism will help lower carbon emissions, doesn't provide any real information for people looking to lower their carbon emissions. He also doesn't disclose he's the author of books that specifically claim that global warming isn't happening.

  • 9nGQluzmnq3M 8 days ago

    Incorrect: Lomborg's position is that climate change is happening, he just thinks that a) the effects will not as catastrophic as claimed and b) most of our efforts to fight it are meaningless wastes of money.

    "Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world." -Lomborg

    • tito 8 days ago

      Gas should be $20 per gallon. (see economic model below). So b) is super interesting to me.

      Obama’s former Chief Economist, Michael Greenstone at U. Chicago studies the social cost of carbon. He modeled the cost of carbon at around $2,000 per ton. That means a gallon of gas “costs” society $20.

      Which is a multiple of the current price of a gallon (~$4) today. This isn’t a 10% or 20% tax on gas, this is a nuts and bolts rebuilding of society.

      I’m excited to be a part of it. I can understand how some would find that unwinnable or overwhelming. But to me the climate is the largest business opportunity civilization has ever seen.

      • TOGoS 8 days ago

        Stop trying to make everything a "business opportunity". There will always be a competitive advantage in exploiting people and destroying the environment. People don't burn down rainforests for the fun of it.

        If civilization is going to survive it's because we collectively recognize the destructive nature of markets based around profits and start doing things for the sake of life.

        • esailija 8 days ago

          How dare you question the will of free markets and the dictatorship of capital. The Invisible Hand will somehow make sure everything works out just fine in the end, I'm sure of it.

          Huh I guess we aren't post-religion society after all.

        • bryanlarsen 8 days ago

          $20/gallon gas may be a "business opportunity" for some but it will have the vast majority of capitalists screaming at the top of their lungs.

          If you want to combat capitalism and big corporate you directly hit it where it hurts, in their profits. Adding rules and regulations and outright bans just induces regulatory capture and ends up strengthening big corporations. A carbon tax is the most effective means for combating climate change because it's so straightforward and because it provides direct pressure on capitalism's precious markets.

          • beatgammit 7 days ago

            And if you simply refund the money to citizens, you preserve the market's ability to self relate instead of picking winners and losers through subsidies and regulations.

            Maybe increasing gas prices will favor electric cars, maybe we'll see a resurgence in hydrogen or other alternative fuel sources, idk. What I do know is that polluting will be less attractive and we'll see innovations.

      • bryanlarsen 8 days ago

        Luckily you don't have to be that extreme. Carbon sequestration costs between $100 and $600 per ton. So if you set a carbon tax at $2000 per ton everybody would sequester and nobody would pay the tax and gas would be $6 - $10 per gallon. Which would be the carbon tax and the market economy working as designed. Awesome, and it's incredible we aren't doing it.

        And going to the point of the article. $20/pound hamburger would have very similar results. ($20 number completely made up)

        • OJFord 8 days ago

          > And going to the point of the article. $20/pound hamburger would have very similar results.

          Isn't that about where we are? That's $10 for half and $5 for a 'quarter-pounder'?

          > ($20 number completely made up)

          Oh. What's the point of / how can you meaningfully discuss the 'results' of a made-up number?

        • tito 8 days ago

          Hey right on, that’s a nice twist, appreciate it! That’s obvious to me now that you say it but wasn’t before. Yes, there’s the beginnings of a market ceiling to the price. We need to get the supply of that $100-$600 capture up. Either using it for new products or burying it. Thanks again!

      • balt_s 8 days ago

        > But to me the climate is the largest business opportunity civilization has ever seen.

        I nominate this for "Most telling HN comment of 2019".

      • bluedevil2k 8 days ago

        Not sure how well that would go over with the average American, suddenly seeing their usual $200-$300'ish monthly bill on gas suddenly change to $2000 - $3000/month.

        And who would get all that extra tax revenue? I assume the US Government, but does anyone have any belief that the US Government would actually put that money towards carbon offsets?

        • tito 8 days ago

          I’m not saying the tax you propose will ever happen, I don’t think it could or necessarily should.

          This is a model of the real social cost of carbon. Which means someone will pay it, maybe not you or me though, and maybe not right now. And that cost may go up.

        • tzs 7 days ago

          > And who would get all that extra tax revenue?

          The proposals that seem to be taken most seriously are for a "revenue neutral" tax. The money collected is distributed back to the public, with each person receiving an equal share.

        • aphextim 8 days ago

          If it cost me 10x to fill my 500 gallon propane tank, well it's back to burning wood/cutting down trees for me.

          • bryanlarsen 8 days ago

            If you're not being stupid about it, you're cutting down mature trees and not trampling the volunteer seedlings. Mature trees (especially coniferous trees) are fairly carbon neutral because they suppress undergrowth. Seedlings capture tons of carbon. So the tax would incentivize emitting much less net carbon. That's the point.

            • aphextim 8 days ago

              >If you're not being stupid about it, you're cutting down mature trees and not trampling the volunteer seedlings.

              Most of the time I can drive around my family's property and find many trees that have already fallen and are down without having to even cut mature trees. It's just the extra work that goes into it rather than calling up the gas company for a refill. I am lucky and my great grandpa/family has been passing the farm/land down through the generations and now it's a 'family' farm with about 1500 acres, and about 2/3 of that is forest with trails.

              Worst case scenario I contract out some kids/young adults in the area to cut/haul/stack my wood if I am short on time and unable to get enough for the winter myself.

              Lots of Maple trees in Upper Michigan :D

              • bryanlarsen 7 days ago

                Even better. Deadfall will rot, releasing its carbon anyways.

            • hackeraccount 8 days ago

              CO2 is not the only type of pollution. Particulate is a lot worse in most ways. And it's also a lot more noticeable. Heck it's probably even as bad or worse for the climate.

            • OJFord 8 days ago

              Yes but if you burn them....

              • bryanlarsen 7 days ago

                The comparison is to burning natural gas.

      • vonmoltke 8 days ago

        > Obama’s former Chief Economist, Michael Greenstone at U. Chicago studies the social cost of carbon. He modeled the cost of carbon at around $2,000 per ton. That means a gallon of gas “costs” society $20.

        Do you have a source for this? He cited much lower estimates in his Congressional testimony:

    • dagw 8 days ago

      But it is not the end of the world.

      True, it might only be global catastrophe that will take generations to recover from.

  • kerkeslager 8 days ago

    > This article essentially just makes the claim that if you do nothing magic will make climate change go away.

    No it doesn't.

    > He didn't disprove the claim that vegetarianism will help lower carbon emissions,

    I don't know if I'd say he disproves it, but he does present evidence that vegetarianism isn't a significant intervention.

    > doesn't provide any real information for people looking to lower their carbon emissions.

    Yes, he does.

    > He also doesn't disclose he's the author of books that specifically claim that global warming isn't happening.

    Nor is he obligated to. You didn't disclose in your post what your opinion is on vegetarianism, did you? This is just an ad-hominem attack, and a hypocritical one at that.

    So basically, you made 4 statements. Two were flat wrong, one was an ad-hominem attack, and one was ambiguous. I downvoted.

ysleepy 8 days ago

Wow, thats weak reasoning. They add the emissions of the stuff you statistically buy with the money instead of meat. Even then it still comes out as a reduction.

I'm not a vegetarian, but seeing the other ecological effects of requiring 5x agricultural land and fertiliser to get the same calories as not good is reasonable.

This is clearly propaganda.

  • 9nGQluzmnq3M 8 days ago

    That's only the third and weakest of Lomborg's points. The others are:

    1. Food makes up only 20% of an average person's greenhouse emissions, and probably less if you're living a jetsetting Silicon Valley lifestyle of air-conditioned spaces and lengthy commutes.

    2. The original calculation assumes you'll go 100% vegan, not just vegetarian, which for most people is a step too far.

    Even excluding the third argument, Lomborg notes that you're looking at a 4.3% reduction at best.

    • DennisP 8 days ago

      As far as I can tell from the article, he's looking at only the direct emissions from agriculture, and ignoring land use changes, like being able to plant trees where we used to grow grain for beef.

    • pmalynin 8 days ago

      That’s a very unfair statement I think.

      I for one drive an EV that’s charged by solar panels at my place of work, and my energy is sourced from a mix of hydro / solar / and wind.

      This is probably true for a significant portion of people in the Valley. Certainly more so than say people in Midwest US and Canada.

      • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

        What? Here in Iowa we get a significant fraction of the state energy budget from wind. More GW than California. Can't drive across the state without encountering 'wind farms', hundreds of giant generators extending in arrays to the horizon.

        • pmalynin 8 days ago

          I’ve lived in Alberta and I’ve visited many parts of the US where the Mighty Truck is the preferred method of transportation, and their mileage is less than desirable. Then there is heating that must be done in the winter which will most likely be still done by burning nat gas.

          Shows Iowa as 14th on emissions per capita and California is 6th from the bottom. So what are you trying to prove?

          Aside: Iowa Farm Bureau is an insurance company that pretends to be the voice of farmers and “grass roots org”, it is also big a lobbying spender. Which makes me doubt both your intent and sources.

          • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

            Really? Attack me personally? Is that your preferred 'argument'?

            The fact is, Iowa produces more energy by wind that many other states, including California. Is that in dispute? Citation please.

            • pmalynin 7 days ago

              No that is not in dispute, but I also don’t see how what I said in the original comment is false or what your point is. All you have said is “What?” What what? You haven’t put any of my claims in dispute either, and I have given evidence that most states have a significantly higher emissions per capita as a whole than California, I couldn’t get more granular and current measurements for Bay Area as a whole so this will do for now as last I checked SV is part of California. The original person I was replying to has made no legitimate claims (backed with data) to defend their position, which is precisely what I called out. You made a comment about how Iowa has more wind power in response. Fine. So what? Iowa is ranked fifth when it comes to energy consumption per capita as well [1] while California is 48th. The majority of Iowa’s energy still comes from coal and natural gas. In 2017, California ranked second in the nation in conventional hydroelectric generation and first as a producer of electricity from solar, geothermal, and biomass resources. Wind is practical the only source of renewable energy in Iowa and it’s total amount is dwarfed by what California is producing. So once again back to your original reply, what I have said that is wrong or incorrect that deserves only “what?” You can browse on EIA and see for yourself very clearly that per capita almost every other state is worse than California, that includes the Midwest.


              • JoeAltmaier 7 days ago

                "This is probably true for a significant portion of people in the Valley. Certainly more so than say people in Midwest US "

                That was in dispute. California gets a tiny fraction of its power from wind, the total state less than Iowa produces (where did you get the 'dwarfed' notion?) while the Midwest gets up to 50%. In Iowa another large fraction is from the Palo nuclear plant. So, very little coal etc.

                • pmalynin 7 days ago

                  Coal's share of net electricity generation in Iowa declined from 76% in 2008 to 45% in 2018, but coal is still the state's largest source of net electricity generation. 45% is very little indeed.

                  Please fact check your claims next time.

                  California produces 28000 MW of renewables total which is way more than Iowa. California Coal power mix was about 3%, and lower in my community

                  • JoeAltmaier 7 days ago

                    I claim that Iowa wind energy exceeds California. That's all. And that's true.

                    It's unseemly to keep changing the subject to one that you can 'win'.

  • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

    'A reduction' isn't the same as 'a big effect'. Meat is marginally more expensive, ecologically. But the other alternatives are not free either. So the total benefit of 'not eating meat' isn't realized to the bottom line. Its marginal.

    • ysleepy 8 days ago

      It is a dishonest way of representing it IMO.

      The headline suggests meat production is not a significant emission source, but it actually argues that it has around the same emissions of the average bought goods of a particular society. Then saying it therefore does not matter is quite the stretch.

    • cal5k 8 days ago

      Bingo. Not much gain to be had here when you look at the actual sources of emissions by category. Tackling electricity production and transportation should be #1 and #2, since they are (more) easily influenced by the state and could be brought down to near-zero emissions within, say, 25 years. Railing at people to stop eating meat because “it’s causing global warming” is at best ineffective and at worst disingenuous.

      • Dirlewanger 8 days ago

        >Railing at people to stop eating meat because “it’s causing global warming” is at best ineffective and at worst disingenuous

        Right, but one of the biggest annoyances I have with right-wing blogs like Reason is that 95% of their content is just reactionary "Actually, liberals aren't quite right about X" crap while offering no alternatives/solutions. At least "stop eating meat" is something with a net positive.

        • QuantumAphid 8 days ago

          What is a net positive about "stop eating meat" unless you're livestock? From a nutrition perspective it's not a positive thing to "stop eating meat".

          Besides changing your diet there are hundreds of other net positive (yet virtually inconsequenial) steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.

          - Wash laundry with cold water - Hang your laundry on a clothes line to dry - Not manage and maintain a grass lawn - Get healthy enough to get off/reduce perscription meds - Drive a hybrid or an EV - Have no/fewer offspring - Don't have pets - Don't work out or exercise (you'll expend more energy, eat more and breathe more co2) - Don't drink alcohol (wine, beer, spirits) - Don't eat chocolate (if meat is somehow uneccessary, certainly chocolate, wine, palm oil and tons of other nutritionally high GHG foods) - Don't play or support activities which waste land, e.g., golf, football, soccer, graveyards, etc.

        • DuskStar 7 days ago

          If you subscribe to the theory that people have some amount of maximum hardship they're willing to undergo for the environment, then we should focus on maximum impact, minimum hardship actions. Things like "no meat", then, which have significant hardship and insignificant benefits, displace other, more beneficial changes. A similar argument could be made for plastic straw bans.

          Basically - if the choice isn't "nothing OR stop eating meat" + "nothing OR switch to more fuel efficient cars" but instead "nothing OR stop eating meat OR switch to more fuel efficient cars", then encouraging "stop eating meat" and not an actually significant change is suboptimal.

        • cal5k 8 days ago

          Look at either side of the political spectrum and you'll see clickbait garbage. They shouldn't be a barometer for correctness.

          There are basically only two things that are going to slow/stop the rise in CO2 emissions: shift to low/no-carbon sources of energy, including natural gas and nuclear, and retool transportation networks to favour electric wherever possible. Obviously planes will be running on kerosene for the foreseeable future, but cars, trucks, and ships could all be electric within a quarter century.

          Eating less/no meat is a perfectly acceptable ethical choice, but it should be divorced form serious discussion of the root causes of carbon emissions.

        • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

          That's the argument that helps people give up doing something important instead? "At least I'm doing something". When that something is insignificant when there are better ways to contribute.

    • vegannet 8 days ago

      Marginally? Beef, for example, takes many times the amount of energy and water to produce equivalent calories to vegan foods. Based on any measure, beef is significantly more expensive than vegan food sources, “marginally” is far from an accurate comparison.

      • toasterlovin 8 days ago

        You need to be more specific. Beef is more expensive to produce than grains. But leafy greens are way more expensive to produce than beef. Non-meat food has a 50x range in cost to produce a calorie. You have to be specific about which non-meat foods you’re replacing meat consumption with. If you’re eating a bunch of kale and avocado instead of meat, then your change probably has no net environmental benefit. If you switch to mostly grains and legumes, then that’s a different story.

      • dagw 8 days ago

        I think the point is that while giving up meat might have a significant effect on your carbon footprint from food consumption, it will have a small effect on your overall carbon footprint. A carnivore who never take an airplane and bikes everywhere is going to have a smaller carbon footprint than a vegan who drives an SUV to work every day and jet sets around the world.

        That being said, none of this is a good argument for not giving up meat.

      • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

        Then there's transportation, refrigeration, distribution, point of sales... all with their cost. Are we still so sure the 'savings' is significant?

        • vegannet 8 days ago

          The cost of transporting a hundred thousand burgers is dwarfed by the cost of creating a hundred thousand burgers. The primary costs associated with meat are in the production, not the transport: compared to, say, Beyond Meat, a single beef burger is 15x more ecologically expensive _before_ transport -- which is the same, and inconsequential in comparison.

          • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

            How about cooking them? Refrigerating them? Selling them?

            I see the idea of marginal cost is getting through. But consider all the costs to get a real sense of how the origination marginal cost contributes.

            And don't dismiss transportation. It has to get home from the grocery store, in that 10-burger one-person vehicular trip through city traffic. That's a marginal cost too.

            • vegannet 8 days ago

              You can make the same point repeatedly if you like but, as I've explained, the costs you're referring to are a very small part of the total cost and certainly do not come close to offsetting the gains made by cutting out livestock from the equation.

              • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

                Citation? I suspect you made that up, to score imaginary internet points.

                Here's some data I just Googled:

                  Car trips:  0.34 metric tonnes of CO2 / 1000 miles
                  Burgers:    0.5 metric tonnes / year of burgers (150)
                Producing meat is very-much commensurate with other marginal activities associated with procuring meat, like trips to the grocery store.

                I'm done here.

            • Jill_the_Pill 8 days ago

              Ok, but considering that you very likely would continue to eat in the absence of meat, the replacement foods usually need cooking, refrigeration, and distribution. These things are not particular to meat and shouldn't factor into a comparison.

              • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

                That's the opposite of the correct conclusion. Because the meat ecological component is dwarfed by the other activities, it becomes (ecologically) insignificant to stop eating meat.

    • dasd99 8 days ago

      this fact:

      > requiring 5x agricultural land and fertiliser

      can certainly not be paraphrased as:

      > marginally more expensive, ecologically

      • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

        That origination cost is added to the cost of harvest, transportation, refrigeration, distribution etc. Is it then so significant? That's the interesting question.

        Because its one cost in a whole column of costs, reducing that entry is what makes it 'marginal'. Meaning, one part of a large total.

  • tito 8 days ago

    And that reasoning is working. The longer we do mock debate over climate change real / not real, the slower we go.

    Reminds me of the GMO / non-GMO debate. The longer we keep that simple frame the slower we go. GMO isn’t any one thing, GMO is the future of most living things and things we haven’t imagined.

    This is our first climate, our first planet. We will be a part of many others, as living intelligence and more.

  • QuantumAphid 8 days ago

    Where does 50% of all fertilizer come from? Animal waste/manure.

    Where does the rest of fertilizer come from? It is synthesized from fossil fuels...

  • Tepix 8 days ago

    Here's the abstract from the paper:

    Sustainable diets, in particular vegetarianism, are often promoted as effective measures to reduce our environmental footprint. Yet, fewconclusions take full-scale behavioral changes into consideration. This can be achieved by calculating the indirect environmental rebound effect related to the re-spending of expenditure saved during the initial behavioral shift. This study aims to quantify the potential energy use and greenhouse gas emission savings, and most likely rebound effects, related to an average Swedish consumer's shift to vegetarianism. Using household budget survey data, it estimates Engel curves of 117 consumption goods, derives marginal expenditure shares, and links these values to environmental intensity indicators. Results indicate that switching to vegetarianism could save consumers 16% of the energy use and 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to their dietary consumption. However, if they re-spend the saved income according to their current preferences, they would forego 96% of potential energy savings and 49% of greenhouse gas emission savings. These rebound effects are even higher for lower-income consumers who tend to re-spend on more environmentally intensive goods. Yet, the adverse effect could be tempered by purchasing organic goods or re-spending the money on services. In order to reduce the environmental impact of consumption, it could thus be recommended to not only focus on dietary shifts, but rather on the full range of consumer expenditure.

    I'd argue that eating vegetarian isn't really that much cheaper in the first place.

    In the paper, there's also section about organic food consumption:

    If a vegetarian diet is chosen for its environmental value, it is possible that consumers will simultaneously choose organic instead of conventional products for their perceived improved impact on the environment. Organic products however are often associated with a price premium, which can fundamentally change the conclusions on re-spending and environmental impacts occurred.

    and a few paragraphs later:

    "Therefore, not only would we avoid any rebound behavior, we find virtuous cycle effects in that consumers will save 111% of both the potential energy and the potential greenhouse gas emission savings thatwere predicted from only foregoing meat alone."

    So, if you go vegetarian, go organic while you're at it!

    PS: The paper isn't so bad, you should probably read it in full (you know where).

frobozz 8 days ago

No single thing that a single individual does will have much of an effect on climate change.

The point is that a lot of people have to do a combination of things.

The article states that:

> First, he points out that calculations, for the most part, ignore 80 percent of greenhouse emissions that we each contribute to the atmosphere from transportation, heating, lighting, and manufacturing.

So cut those as well. I may have missed something, but I didn't see anywhere above that said what those "ignorant" calculations concluded.

> becoming a vegetarian would cut the average person's greenhouse emissions by about 2 percent.

It then goes on to compare this to spending $3 per year on cap-and-trade allowances.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Offset are not XOR.

The conclusion is that you can cut your footprint by 4% by going vegetarian AND spending $3 per year on cap-and-trade allowances.

  • Ididntdothis 8 days ago

    “No single thing that a single individual does will have much of an effect on climate change”

    Dismissing something that may improve things to some degree but not completely is an old trick to stop inconvenient discussions and do nothing. Happens all the time. Drugs in the US costing too much compared to the rest of the world? Sure but look at how much the insurers make therefore stop asking why pharmaceutical companies charge that much. Reduce carbon emissions at home? would help but the real problem is China therefore let’s not do anything.

    Eating less meat is not the solution to everything but it would be a benefit in multiple ways. Less animal suffering, less emissions and better health.

    • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

      No, the idea that giving up a burger now and then and saying "I did my part" is the single most significant trick to stop folks from doing something more effective.

      Recognize truth, like the statement quoted, and move on to helping promote real solutions. That would be a significant act.

      • couchand 8 days ago

        But nobody who would give up meat for climate change is going to be satisfied there. Your argument is a straw man.

        • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

          Citation? How many vegetarians you know, do a single other thing (not counting 'giving up the straw in my soda')? Did they write their congressman? Do they even know that's a thing?

          • couchand 8 days ago

            Your lack of charity is alarming.

            • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

              I'm just old and jaded I guess.

      • Ididntdothis 8 days ago

        You can eat less meat and still understand that more needs to be done. There is no single “real solution” for most complex problems.

rblion 8 days ago

People believe whatever they want and justify it with articles like these or the articles referenced. Civilization is a self-fulfilling prophecy writ large.

I have cut down a lot on my meat consumption for a number of reasons and feel better overall from a health standpoint, the environmental benefits are a bonus. That's enough for me.

I am here to serve, to create, to explore. If I can do that with minimal harm to other beings, great. If you choose to make fun of me for that, good for you. I don't take anything personally anymore.

vfc1 8 days ago

People love to hear good news about their bad habits. I guess all those studies that took years of work and got published in peer review scientific journals like Nature, all the latest reports from the UN.

All of that goes out of the window because some guy decided to "do some number crunching". Well, what qualifies him to speak on these matters, where are his results?

Where they published in a peer-reviewed journal, does he have any idea what he is talking about? Did he take into account the consequences of the deforestation needed to produce meat, animal methane emissions?

What this guy is saying is in complete contradiction to mainstream scientific magazines and the UN.

Why should we listen to this guy just because he is telling us us what we want to hear?

  • eej2ya1K 8 days ago

    Looking at the comments here, I'm pretty sure he's telling you the exact opposite of what you want to hear.

    • vfc1 8 days ago

      Based on what, that's the question. It's the internet, you got scientists who spent years studying this issue, performed hundreds of studies to reach conclusions, published their conclusions in peer-reviewed journals.

      And then some guy from Twitter comes along and says "No it's not" and people run with it just because that's what they want to hear.

stanski 8 days ago

Climate change is a story of excess. It's not just eating meat three times a day. It's not just having two cars per household or buying a new phone/laptop/TV/everything every two years.

This article is trying really hard to avoid one of the problems, which the author seems to have a personal interest in.

efficax 8 days ago

> Results indicate that switching to vegetarianism could save consumers 16% of the energy use and 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to their dietary consumption. However, if they re-spend the saved income according to their current preferences, they would forego 96% of potential energy savings and 49% of greenhouse gas emission savings.

This is based on swedish pricing. But meat is extremely cheap in America, where we also consume more meat than most other nations, and replacing it with vegetarian protein would probably cost me more money.

In any case, if I'm committed to changing my diet for the climate, I'll probably try to be conscientious in my other consumption habits, right?

All this paper really concludes is that reducing meat is very effective but that there are lots of other things that need to also be done.

Also what about if we replanted the animal farms with oxygen producing trees, etc?

mnm1 8 days ago

I gave up meat for a decade and a half. It didn't do shit. Why? Because no one else did. And no one else will to any significant degree of the population. There likely are more vegetarians and vegans now than in the past based on the number of restaurants that cater to this diet but on the whole, people will not give up eating meat as long as meat exists. People are made to eat meat. What's next? Let's give up sex so that the population stops increasing? That's just as absurd. If meat exists and people can get it, they will eat it. It's that simple. And pretending like this is a solution in the face of that, even if it does reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which it almost certainly does), is a waste of time.

If people really think this is a solution, they can try to legislate it away. That won't work either because people will turn to the black market as they currently do for drugs and as they have in the past for meat and other foods when they weren't easily available (in some eastern bloc countries in the 80's for example).

This path is a dead end. Environmentalists would better serve their goals by looking towards things that are actually achievable rather than going down paths of impossibility. That is, if they actually want to enact change. A lot of environmentalists just want to be seen as trying to do something when their actions have no actual benefit.

spodek 8 days ago

Vegetarian is more efficient than meat, but if we use every efficiency to increase the population, we end up hitting other limits to growth.

What Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Prize for the Green Revolution, said applies here: "The green revolution has won a temporary success in man's war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution will be ephemeral only."

Efficiency is tactical. Reduction is strategic.

I spoke about this at more length in my podcast episode 183: Reusing and recycling are tactical. Reducing is strategic:

sxp 8 days ago

Other than carbon footprint, there are good reasons to give up meat. 90% of Amazon deforestation is due to cattle ranching[1]. Raising cattle also uses a large amount of water [2]. So if you're concerned about these two aspects of the environment, giving up beef is a good option.

The techno-optimist in me isn't worried about the environmental impact of cattle in the long run. I think plant-based & lab grown meat is going to take off in a decade once it can be engineered to taste better than natural meat. Once this happens, the lower price will cause people to shift away from real cows unless they want to pay a premium for organic, non-GMO meat.

[1] [2]

  • QuantumAphid 8 days ago

    Q: If I give up meat, will Brazil reduce its cattle ranching? A: No.

    Brazil isn't raising livestock for the US or North America. Not even 1% of their livestock products are imported to the US.

truebrazilian 8 days ago

a lot of times pasture allows you to use marginal land that wouldn't be suitable for other cultures. Outside the developed world this happens a lot. In plenty of places there's not an option between corn and goats, but between inedible brush and goats. This doesn't apply too much to countries like the US, where cattle is feed with grains, that indeed could be consumed directly by humans without the energy losses created by the metabolic processes of raising said animals. But for free-range cattle in the less developed world, meat means having a biological factory to transform inedible cellulose into calories and proteins. And even for agricultural land of higher quality, suitable for crops, it is a good sustainable practice to alternate cultures with an occasional year of growing pasture, and letting cattle graze upon it and fertilize it with manure. So, the matter is more nuanced here. A big part of the problem are the subsides and non-tariff barriers that incentive farmers to raise cattle with feed on developed countries.

  • JoeAltmaier 8 days ago

    Even in the US, many cattle are grazed on marginal lands, unsuitable for any other purpose.

    • QuantumAphid 8 days ago

      This is true. Many people think that you can just get rid of livestock and grow kale. It doesn't work like that. Still others think you can get rid of livestock, which eliminates the need for feed crops, which then allows you to grow kale. That isn't reality either. Land with low-quality soils used to grow crappy field corn (which is not suitable for humans) cannot simply be converted to grow kale for humans.

      Livestock are part of an integrated agriculture system. Livestock and agriculture depend on one another. Cattle and ruminants, for example, convert low quality wild scrub, fescue and leftover agricultural byprods into high quality human-edible meat and nutrients.

      About 50% of the corn in the US is grown not for humans or animal feed, but to produce ethanol fuel. The residual of that ethanol process is then processed into feed for livestock.

      Quite a bit of the Amazon region is used to grow soybeans. The soybeans are shipped to Asian countries where they make soybean oil out of it for cooking. The residual soy byproducts from that process is then turned into feed which goes to pigs and chickens in that region.

      Also mentioned in an earlier reply that about 50% of all fertilizer needed for crop cultivation comes from animal manure and byproducts. The remainder (and alternative approach) is to synthesize the fertilizer from fossil fuels.

      It's important to realize that livestock aren't simply a standalone component in the food system. They are a key part of the total agriculture picture.

      Food also isn't simply calories, it's about nutrition-- getting absorbable animal-format vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other key nutrients. There are quite a few nutrients which are essential to the human body and yet are very difficult (some virtually impossible) to obtain from plant-only sources. So reducing meat does come with costs/risks in terms of nutrition, I think that shouldn't be overlooked.

ptah 8 days ago

I stopped reading at "Bjorn Lomborg". he is a known climate change denial propagandist

fnord123 8 days ago

To say Bjorn Lomborg is a controversial character is to put it mildly. His 2001 book, the Skeptical Environmentalist was the centre of a huge controversy.

pxue 8 days ago

I think everything can be summed up like this...

you're planning to take a 7 day cruise to the Bahamas with your family of 4 this Christmas.

but you recently watched Patriot act episode on cruises and were shocked that a typical cruise generates equivalent of 1 million cars worth of greenhouse gas per day.

so you reached out to the cruise company and asks them what they can do to mitigate this appalling disregard of the environment.

the cruise company informs you that there's now a vegetarian or vegan premium meal plan that would cut down your green house consumption by about 10%.

you loved the idea and happily pays extra for the vegetarian meal plan, knowing that you're now doing good for the environment and thus saving the planet.

perlgeek 8 days ago

I like eating meat, so I am motivated to believe this, but the numbers seem in stark contrast with numbers I've read elsewhere, with no solid explanation where the difference comes from.

So I'm inclined to call BS.

jacknews 8 days ago

Bjorn Lomborg being reported in "Reason" magazine

I think together there might just be some degree of bias, when it comes to this issue.

But in any case, the real issue is not just about greenhouse emissions, and in particular not just about economics (typically, economic projections are linear, whereas reality is full of collapses and blossomings).

It's also about land-use, biodiversity, the health of the entire ecosystem, etc. We should not be clearing ancient tropical rainforest to raise beef.

0wis 8 days ago

The point of the article is that not eating meat have a lower effect on global warming than what mass media is shouting.

IMO limiting meat consumption is a good idea, and not only on a global warming standpoint.

However, I would say that a critique of the mass media communication on veganism is interesting. Is the effort proportional to the effect ? Are there not more efficient ways to fight climate change ? A writing that brings arguments - and data - against the hype is always interesting and refreshing to me. In 2000’s it was «go vegan» publication, today its «anti-vegan».

To conclude, I’d say that every effort is counting to fight global warming, and the article is not against that idea.

makerofspoons 8 days ago

One area of change in one's lifestyle was never going to move the needle significantly. Reducing consumption is the real message- buy things that last, walk or bike, avoid air travel, turn off the AC, etc. Lomborg is right though that the savings on buying meat would likely be spent on other things, which is exactly why we need a carbon tax proportional to the emissions created to manufacture them.

aaron695 8 days ago

I do love the way people are so religiously fanatical about Global Warming they don't care that we have to destroy environments for meat.

It's more important to them that in 100 years time Global Warming might destroy things than the actual destruction now.

That's what is truly disturbing about the comments.