Guest Post by Geoff Russell. Geoff is a mathematician and computer programmer and is a member of Animal Liberation SA. His recently published book is CSIRO Perfidy. His previous article on BNC was: Feeding the billions on a hotter planet (Part III).
He also wrote a brilliant recent piece for The Punch: Fukushima was no disaster, no matter how you spin it
Back in 2008, head of the IPCC Rajendra Pachauri told the world to eat less meat because of its large greenhouse footprint.
At about the same time the National Health and Medical Research Council appointed a committee to update Australia’s Dietary Guidelines … last issued in 2003. The preface from the 2003 document is clear:
“The Australian Food and Nutrition Policy is based on the principles of good nutrition, ecological sustainability and equity. This third edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults is consistent with these principles. The food system must be economically viable and the quality and integrity of the environment must be maintained. In this context, among the important considerations are conservation of scarce resources such as topsoil, water and fossil fuel energy and problems such as salinity.”
The Terms of Reference give no instructions about what the committee should do other than to update the documents with the best available science. Environmental issues were clearly worthy of lip-service in 2003, if nothing else. Any reasonable update to the 2003 document should see those issues front and center.
Our impacts on the climate will flow on into most other environmental issues, whether we are concerned with other species, or more narrowly focused on the habitability of the planet for our own. If food choices have a significant impact on climate forcings, then documenting and explaining the extent of those impacts to the public should have been front and centre in the workings of this committee. In addition to the head of the IPCC, no lesser scientific authority than NASA climate scientist James Hansen said in 2009:
If you eat further down on the food chain rather than animals, which have produced many greenhouse gases, and used much energy in the process of growing that meat, you can actually make a bigger contribution in that way than just about anything. So that, in terms of individual action, is perhaps the best thing you can do.
He made an equivalent statement to me in 2008 and advised that he was changing his own diet and was “80-90% vegetarian“.
We shall see later that Hansen’s claim is easily supported.