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. For his previous post on BNC about the Integral Fast Reactor, read “Rethinking Nuclear Power“.
UK Economist Lord Nicholas Stern is the latest in a growing list, including IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri and NASA climate scientist James Hansen calling for a global shift in dietary habits towards less meat. The CSIRO has issued a new Home Energy Saving Handbook which tells people diplomatically, but unambiguously, that if they do use the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, with its huge meat component, then use it for as brief a period as possible and switch to a high carbohydrate diet which has a much lower greenhouse footprint. The book also has a great section on the implications of suburban food growing, including a mention that this also tends to reduce meat consumption. This new CSIRO handbook is a long way short of the major public corporate apology that I called for in my recent book CSIRO Perfidy, but it’s an excellent start. All in all this CSIRO book is a great practical book about how people can significantly reduce their various footprints on the planet. It doesn’t fall into any of the all too common traps like considering the fuel consumption of a car, but ignoring the emissions generated during the building of the vehicle.
Stern’s call reduced animal product intake follows close on the release of a report on livestock and climate change from the Food Ethics Council in the UK(commisioned by World Wildlife Fund (WWF)). The press release announcing the report contains a statment which will probably raise the blood pressure of any meat producer. It says that the report:
Identifies a wide array of measures by which government might change consumption behaviour, …
The livestock industry can live with feel good statments about breeding for lower emitting cattle and the like, but changes to consumption, changes that would actually make a difference, that is anathema.
At the risk of boring people who know this stuff, let me quantify using an analogy that I hope will clarify. Consider a computer screen. I’m using a 19 inch 37 watt LCD. My TV is a little bigger and uses 58 watts. Most people know that huge plasma TVs can be more than a little bigger and use 10 times more power. Systems labelled home theatre can run to over 1500 watts … about half for the sound and half for the picture. Now, pause and think what would happen if somebody started making 7400 watt screens that were much the same size as normal screens. Imagine further that these screens caused serious and frequently life shortening health problems.
Would anybody defend such screens? Would anybody bother with a defence that better manufacturing could reduce their power usage by 25%?