LORD Nicholas Stern, author of an influential 2006 report on the economics of climate change for the United Kingdom, has advocated vegetarianism as a way of tackling climate change.
“Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases,” The Times of London reported Lord Stern as saying
“It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
The author of the Stern Review, who is not a strict vegetarian himself, believes that the economics of tackling climate change will mean meat prices will rise substantially, forcing people to evolve toward a more vegetarian diet.
The United Nations attributes 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions to meat production, including forest destruction for ranching and production of animal feeds.
Predictably, UK vegetarians have welcomed Lord Stern’s comments, and UK farmers have in turn been angered.
Lord Stern is a former chief economist of the World Bank and now the I G Patel Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, The Times reported.
The CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook, released last month, has also endorsed vegetarian diets as having a low greenhouse footprint—although an earlier publication, the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, advocated plenty of animal protein.
A 2006 study by the University of Chicago concluded that compared to the Standard American Diet, a strict vegetarian diet produced 1485 kg less carbon dioxide per person per year.
However, Cornell University research found that a purely vegetarian diet may not be the most efficient use of land.
A low-fat vegetarian diet involved the lowest “land footprint” in the Cornell study, but the diet with the most efficient land footprint—and thus able to feed the most people—contained meat and dairy.
While vegetarianism must be supported by high-value land, animals can utilise rougher pasture lands, the researchers observed, so that more people could be fed from the study area (New York State) from mixed farming than if a purely vegetarian diet was grown.