I recently had an Opinion Editorial published in The Age, with two co-authors, which discussed something most people don’t think a whole lot about – how their diet affects their carbon footprint. It was a response to the draft Garnaut Review on the economic impact of climate change on Australia. Here is a snippet.
PROFESSOR Ross Garnaut has managed to write a 548-report on climate change in which he mentions Australia’s largest current contribution to climate change precisely once — in the glossary, where we find a definition of “enteric fermentation”.
Never heard of it? It’s what goes on in the digestive systems of ruminants, like cattle and sheep. It produces methane, Australia’s largest but also most under-appreciated contribution to climate change over the next few decades. The second-largest current contribution is coal. It gets mentioned 272 times in the report — as it should.
Why is methane so under-appreciated? There’s a political reason and a technical reason.
The political reason is that if telling Australians that they need to pay more for petrol and electricity is tough, telling them they need to consume less beef, lamb and dairy products is going to be tougher still.