In this file:
· The planet is being consumed by humans
· UN climate report: Change land use to avoid a hungry future
· Going Vegan Has Half Climate Change Impact of One Transatlantic Flight
· Vegan food’s sustainability claims need to give the full picture
The planet is being consumed by humans
By Mark Lynas, Opinion, CNN
August 08, 2019
Lynas is a writer on climate change, and visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science at Cornell University.
(CNN) Humanity is on a collision course with nature. Already 72% of the global ice-free land surface is dedicated to supporting our species, and between a quarter and a third of the entire 'net primary production' of the planet is consumed by humans.
Net primary production is a measure of the combined photosynthetic output of all the world's plants. Because we grab so much for ourselves, smaller and smaller amounts are left in the food chain for the rest of life on Earth.
No wonder so many other species are going extinct, displaced to the margins of existence in disappearing forests and degraded ecosystems. According to the latest International Union for Conservation Nature's (IUCN) Red List, 40% of amphibians, 25% of mammals, 14% birds and 33% of corals are threatened with extinction.
And it's only expected to get worse. Within another 30 years the global human population will exceed 9 billion people, meaning we will have to increase food production by at least another 70% in order to stave off mass famine.
Living in a climate of change
Superimposed on all of this is the climate crisis, which will expand deserts, shift rainfall patterns beyond recognition and make large areas of the world's current continental breadbaskets too hot or dry to grow crops.
These challenges are outlined in the latest special report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this time focusing on the issue of land use.
The implications are profound. Just as the climate crisis demands that we transform our energy use, abandoning fossil fuels and switching to clean energy sources worldwide, addressing the challenge of land use requires dramatic changes in how we grow and consume food.
The two crises are also intimately linked. The scientists make clear that without addressing land it will be impossible to fully tackle global heating, because 22% of greenhouse gas emissions arise from agriculture, forestry and other land use.
Although the IPCC experts are cautious in their use of language and do not make specific recommendations, it is clear from the report that a massive priority is to shift diets in developed countries away from the current heavy use of meat and dairy products.
The problem with meat
The majority of the world's land is used not to feed humans directly but to support livestock. Over-consumption of meat is unhealthy, and also an environmental disaster: rainforests are cleared in Brazil both to provide pasture for beef cattle, but also to grow soya crops for export to markets like Europe where they are mostly used in animal feed.
Ruminants like sheep and cattle do not only degrade land directly through over-grazing and pollution from manure, they also release enormous quantities of methane, a global warming gas thirty times as powerful as carbon dioxide.
For Western consumers, giving up steak and lamb is arguably the single most important personal contribution to tackling both the climate and biodiversity crises. A largely vegetarian -- or better still, vegan -- planet would be able to dramatically reduce agriculture, sparing more land for nature.
However, the farming lobbies are powerful. In Europe, farmers are supported by subsidies, without which much livestock production would already be uneconomic. Europeans pay through taxes to support unnecessary land destruction by agriculture -- hardly a sensible policy.
Beef is widely recognized as the most climate-damaging of all foods. A 2017 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council on food consumption in the US calculates that each kilogram of beef produces 26.5 kilograms of CO2 emissions -- the highest among all the foods observed in the study, and five times more than chicken or turkey meat.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of the world's greenhouse emissions, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, making it a significant contributor to climate change. Of those emissions, 65 percent come from beef and dairy cattle.
Reducing beef consumption is an effective way of curbing global emissions. According to the NRDC, Americans now consume 19 percent less beef than just over a decade ago, in 2005. This is equivalent to a reduction of 185 million metric tons of emissions, or the annual tailpipe pollution of 39 million cars.
But why is beef so bad? "The feed is largely produced using lots of pesticide and fertilizer, which requires fossil fuels," explains Sujatha Bergen, one of the authors of the study. "Also, the digestive system of the cows produces methane, which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And the manure emits additional greenhouse gases."
In Brazil the situation is even worse. Powerful agribusiness interests supported the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, who the Economist dubbed as "arguably the world's most environmentally dangerous head of state." Bolsonaro who was elected on a campaign that promised to explore the economic potential of the Amazon, has presided over a dramatic upswing in rainforest destruction.
Don't imagine however that locally-produced, grass-fed beef is a better bet -- low-intensity agriculture uses very large areas of land to produce comparatively little food. For example, lamb production in the UK ecologically impoverishes virtually the entire uplands for the sake of a trivial contribution to Britain's food security.
Farming evolved ...
Changing our relationship with food ...
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UN climate report: Change land use to avoid a hungry future
via Fox News - Aug 8, 2019
GENEVA (AP) — Human-caused climate change is dramatically degrading the Earth's land and the way people use the land is making global warming worse, a new United Nations scientific report says. That creates a vicious cycle which is already making food more expensive, scarcer and less nutritious.
"The cycle is accelerating," said NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, a co-author of the report. "The threat of climate change affecting people's food on their dinner table is increasing."
But if people change the way they eat, grow food and manage forests, it could help save the planet from a far warmer future, scientists said.
Earth's land masses, which are only 30 percent of the globe, are warming twice as fast as the planet as a whole. While heat-trapping gases are causing problems in the atmosphere, the land has been less talked about as part of climate change. A special report, written by more than 100 scientists and unanimously approved by diplomats from nations around the world Thursday at a meeting in Geneva, proposed possible fixes and made more dire warnings.
"The way we use land is both part of the problem and also part of the solution," said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist who co-chairs one of the panel's working groups. "Sustainable land management can help secure a future that is comfortable."
Scientists at Thursday's press conference emphasized both the seriousness of the problem and the need to make societal changes soon...
... "The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases," the report said...
... If people change their diets, reducing red meat and increasing plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and seeds, the world can save as much as another 15% of current emissions by mid-century. It would also make people more healthy, Rosenzweig said.
The science panel said they aren't telling people what to eat because that's a personal choice...
Going Vegan Has Half Climate Change Impact of One Transatlantic Flight
Tyne Morgan, FarmJournal's Pork
August 8, 2019
Media reports sent a flurry of headlines Thursday suggesting consumers should eat less meat. These reports claimed a study from the United Nations suggested consumers should eat less meat in order to curb climate change. The report–from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPPC)– looked into ways to reduce the impact on climate change.
Frank Mitloehner with University of California-Davis is frustrated with the media coverage so far, which he said started with news outlets in the United Kington. He said while the IPPC report focused on land use and land use change, it didn’t tell consumers to eat less meat.
“The IPCC said that we do need to visit our agricultural practices, we need to be more sustainable overall globally in how we grow food, and I totally agree with that,” Mitloehner says. “There are certain land use practices that are not sustainable. So, we have to think about how we do a better job. Where I differ in the reporting in them saying, ‘we need to change what we eat in order to curb climate change,’ they are putting us on the wrong path for solutions.”
He says by focusing on eating less meat, consumers are being misled on what’s really attributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you were to switch from an omnivore diet to a vegan diet for one year, that would be half the impact of one flight from the United States to Europe with respect to carbon emissions,” he says. “Going vegan for one year is half the impact of one transatlantic flight. So, what I'm saying here is not there's no impact, there certainly is an impact, but it is other day to day life choices that we make that are way more environmentally harmful.”
He thinks by the media focus on eating fewer burgers or eating less meat as a whole, it’s giving the other factors a “get out of jail free card” when it comes to lowering the impact on climate change.
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the United States, of all greenhouse gases, the livestock sector emits a little bit less than 4%,” he says. “Contrast that to the 80% of those industries that consume very heavily fossil fuels: that's transportation, power production that you use, and industries such as the cement industry. “
Mitloehner says what confuses people are when global numbers are used versus statistics from the U.S. He says those figures can be misleading. While the U.S. livestock industry emits less than 4%, globally livestock produces 14.5% of greenhouse gases. He says those claiming livestock is what’s causing climate change uses the international number, because it sounds more extreme or scary...
more, including links, video report [7:44 min.]
Vegan food’s sustainability claims need to give the full picture
Maartje Sevenster, Research Scientist Climate Smart Agriculture, CSIRO
Brad Ridoutt, Principal Research Scientist
via The Conversation - August 8, 2019
The IPCC special report, Climate Change and Land, released last night, has found a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the “land”: largely farming, food production, land clearing and deforestation.
Sustainable farming is a major focus of the report, as plants and soil can potentially hold huge amounts of carbon. But it’s incredibly difficult as a consumer to work out the overall footprint of individual products, because they don’t take these considerations into account.
Two vegan brands have published reports on the environmental footprint of their burgers. Impossible Foods claims its burger requires 87% less water and 96% less land, and produces 89% fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than a beef version. Additionally, it would contribute 92% less aquatic pollutants.
Similarly, Beyond Meat claims its burger requires 99% less water, 93% less land, 90% fewer greenhouse emissions and 46% less energy than a beef burger.
But these results have focused on areas where vegan products perform well, and do not account for soil carbon or potential deforestation. This might change the picture.
How do you measure an environmental footprint?
Vegan and vegetarian “meat alternatives” have become increasingly popular. Often in the form of burgers, the products are meant to emulate the taste, nutritional value, “mouthfeel” and even the cooking experience of a meat burger. The aim is to provide the consumer with products that are like meat in all respects except one: their environmental impact.
Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have each published “life-cycle assessments” (LCA), which measure environmental aspects of products over the supply chain. As is clear from the figures quoted above, both claim their burgers use a fraction of the resources of traditional beef burgers.
These results sound impressive, but LCA results can be misleading when taken out of context. Looking at the underlying reports for Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger it becomes clear that statements such as “less water” and “less land” mean different things in practice.
There are significant differences between the two studies in the calculations of land and water use for the beef burger, and the final results are not expressed in the same units. This does not necessarily mean either of the studies is invalid, but it does mean the statements on the websites are simplified and don’t allow for clear interpretation.
Both studies justify their choice of indicators by saying they are the most common used in beef footprint studies. But are they the most relevant indicators for vegan burger production?
By making the comparison only for the environmental aspects most important for meat products, the results may look extra positive for the vegan alternatives, as other aspects might have shown a less favourable result. The results as presented may be true, but they are not the whole truth.
Importantly, the studies compare the results for the vegan burgers with a beef burger produced in the United States. To be precise, it is produced from cattle from average, conventional US production systems.
This is a valid choice, because this is the default burger meat in the US market. But results may be very different for other animals, for beef in other countries, or for unconventionally farmed beef.
Unconventional beef ...
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