Monday, September 8, 2008

UN says eat less meat to curb global warming

· Climate expert urges radical shift in diet
· Industry unfairly targeted - farmers

A joint of beef

A joint of beef. Photograph/Alamy

People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world's leading authority on global warming has told The Observer

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.

His comments are the most controversial advice yet provided by the panel on how individuals can help tackle global warning.

Pachauri, who was re-elected the panel's chairman for a second six-year term last week, said diet change was important because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems - including habitat destruction - associated with rearing cattle and other animals. It was relatively easy to change eating habits compared to changing means of transport, he said.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. These are generated during the production of animal feeds, for example, while ruminants, particularly cows, emit methane, which is 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide. The agency has also warned that meat consumption is set to double by the middle of the century.

'In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity,' said Pachauri. 'Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there,' said the Indian economist, who is a vegetarian.

However, he also stressed other changes in lifestyle would help to combat climate change. 'That's what I want to emphasise: we really have to bring about reductions in every sector of the economy.'

Pachauri can expect some vociferous responses from the food industry to his advice, though last night he was given unexpected support by Masterchef presenter and restaurateur John Torode, who is about to publish a new book, John Torode's Beef. 'I have a little bit and enjoy it,' said Torode. 'Too much for any person becomes gluttony. But there's a bigger issue here: where [the meat] comes from. If we all bought British and stopped buying imported food we'd save a huge amount of carbon emissions.'

Tomorrow, Pachauri will speak at an event hosted by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, which has calculated that if the average UK household halved meat consumption that would cut emissions more than if car use was cut in half.

The group has called for governments to lead campaigns to reduce meat consumption by 60 per cent by 2020. Campaigners have also pointed out the health benefits of eating less meat. The average person in the UK eats 50g of protein from meat a day, equivalent to a chicken breast and a lamb chop - a relatively low level for rich nations but 25-50 per cent more than World Heath Organisation guidelines.

Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientific adviser for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, who will also speak at tomorrow's event in London, said government could help educate people about the benefits of eating less meat, but it should not 'regulate'. 'Eating less meat would help, there's no question about that, but there are other things,' Watson said.

However, Chris Lamb, head of marketing for pig industry group BPEX, said the meat industry had been unfairly targeted and was working hard to find out which activities had the biggest environmental impact and reduce those. Some ideas were contradictory, he said - for example, one solution to emissions from livestock was to keep them indoors, but this would damage animal welfare. 'Climate change is a very young science and our view is there are a lot of simplistic solutions being proposed,' he said.

Last year a major report into the environmental impact of meat eating by the Food Climate Research Network at Surrey University claimed livestock generated 8 per cent of UK emissions - but eating some meat was good for the planet because some habitats benefited from grazing. It also said vegetarian diets that included lots of milk, butter and cheese would probably not noticeably reduce emissions because dairy cows are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas released through flatulence.

Antarctic Earthquakes Shake at Glacial Speed

Live Science


Wide rivers of ice, called ice streams, flow through relatively slow-moving polar ice sheets, en route to the sea. Glaciologists had assumed that ice streams just creep steadily along—until one was recently shown to pack a powerful one-two punch, generating seismic waves twice a day.

The seismic signals from Antarctica's 60-mile-wide Whillans Ice Stream are as strong as those of a magnitude-7 earthquake, which could cause major damage in a developed area. But, whereas an earthquake of magnitude 7 might last 10 seconds, the Whillans signals continue for ten minutes or longer. They resemble earthquakes at glacial speed, says Douglas A. Wiens of Washington University in St. Louis.

[Because of the relatively long time over which the slip takes place, scientists standing right on the slipping ice stream feel nothing. In contrast, most rock earthquakes, which can take place in as little as a few seconds, are felt intensely by people in the area.

Solar energy can meet all the world's energy demands: expert

From: , The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), More from this Affiliate


The world must speed up the deployment of solar power as it has the potential to meet all the world's energy needs, the chairman of an industry gathering which wrapped up Friday in Spain said.

"The solar energy resource is enormous, and distributed all over the world, in all countries and also oceans," said Daniel Lincot, the chairman of the five-day European Photovoltaic Solar Energy conference held in Valencia.

"There is thus an enormous resource available from photovoltaics, which can be used everywhere, and can in principle cover all the world energy demand from a renewable, safe and clean source," he added.

Lincot, the research director of the Paris-based Institute for Research and Development of Photovoltaic Energy, said solar energy was growing rapidly but still made only a "negligible" contribution to total energy supply.

Last year the world production of photovoltaic models represented a surface of 40 square kilometres (16 square miles) while meeting the electrical consumption of countries like France or Germany would require 5,000 square kilometres, he said.

Under current scenarios, photovoltaic models will represent about 1,000 square kilometres by 2020 accounting for about only 3.0 percent of energy needs in the 27-member European Union, he added.

Over 200 scientists and solar power experts have signed a declaration calling on the accelerated deployment of photovoltaic power which was launched at the conference.

More than 3,500 experts and 715 sector firms took part in the gathering, billed as the largest conference ever organised in the field of photovoltaic conversion of solar energy.

Germany and Spain are the world leaders in solar energy power. Germany has 4,000 megawatts of installed capacity while Spain has 600 megawatts.

This article is reproduced with kind permission of Agence France-Presse (AFP) For more news and articles visit the AFP website.


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