If we really want to cut down on global greenhouse emissions, we’re going to have to do something about cow farts*.
That’s the conclusion of a study published today in the journal Climatic Change. If we have any shot of reaching the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s global-warming mitigation goals, the world is going to have to start eating a lot less meat.
Thirty-seven percent of all human-caused methane emissions come from the worldwide agricultural industry. Compared with CO2, methane is 21 times more effective at trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere, according to the United Nations. While transportation and electricity account for more than half of emissions in the United States, the EPA reports that agriculture comprises 8 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. And while relatively small, that’s a significant contribution that can’t be ignored — especially considering how progress in halting emissions from transportation has so far been minimal.
“In order to have any chance to reach a 2 degree target, fossil-fuel use has to be reduced drastically,” Fredrik Hedenus, the study’s lead author, wrote in an email. “However, what we show is that may not be sufficient, as the agricultural emissions … may be too high. Thus we have to take action in both sectors.” Transportation and energy are the biggest sources of greenhouse gases, but researchers say a global shift in people’s diets is also necessary to contain climate change.”We therefore conclude that dietary changes are crucial for meeting the 2 degree C target with high probability.”
So, how much less meat do we have to eat?
“It all depends how much we can and want to do in the energy sector,” Hedenus explains. “If we do a lot there it may be sufficient with a 25 percent lower meat and dairy consumption than predicted in 2070. If we do less, somewhere around 75 percent less may be reasonable.”
If 25 percent to 75 percent less meat consumption worldwide sounds like an absurd long shot, it is. Global meat demand only continues to rise, as fueled by China and the developing world. Meat consumption in the United States has actually declined in recent years, explains Emily Adams, a researcher with the Earth Policy Institute. “Meat consumption peaked in the United States as a nation in 2007 and since then it has fallen 4 percent,” Adams says. “That’s not a 75 percent reduction like they are talking about, but that’s coming without government fiat or absolutely insane food prices.”
But while meat consumption in the United States has fallen, that’s a small drop compared with the rising demand in China.
(Earth Policy Institute)
Also Monday, the IPCC released its latest progress report on climate change, finding that “global climate-change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4 degrees C or more above preindustrial levels … and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year.”
The reports are getting scarier, and papers like Hedenus’s underscore how, if we’re really going to attenuate the rate of climatic change, we’re going to need severe changes in our culture. Electric cars may come to replace conventional ones, but they’ll still be cars. Getting people to change their diets will require a global change in thinking and behavior.
The study’s authors aren’t exactly optimistic about this hard fact.
“Substantial deviations from current dietary preferences are unlikely and would probably occur only as a result of policy interventions,” they write. “However, policy-driven dietary changes are contentious and would almost certainly emerge only after productivity improvement and technical measures largely have been exhausted.”
*Clarification: Cow burps and manure actually contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than the flatulence does.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”