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To rein in global warming, healthy forests and sustainable diets are key, U.N (latimes.com)
76 points by pseudolus 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments



So, almost 80% of emissions come from transportation, electricity production and industry[1] but let's focus on diets(9%) and forests.

I'm all for better diets and better managing of forests but this is like saying that to put out a fire we really should be concentrating on spitting on it instead of calling the fire department.

[1] - https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emis...


That data is only for the US where transportation and energy usage is likely higher per capita than other nations. It may also not take into account food that is imported.

On the same website the EPA global stats show that agriculture and deforestation (largely due to clearing land for cattle grazing) contributes 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions. [1]

I agree that we should be considering all areas of emissions, however diet is something that every individual can decide to take responsibility for immediately without having to lobby huge industries or pass new legislation. Other choices like moving to removable energy and reducing our reliance on transport have a lot more economic and social inertia behind them.

Millions of people are already voluntarily reducing or eliminating their meat intake, and there are plant-based options at virtually all restaurants/chains here in the UK. It's a trend that we should all be encouraging in my opinion, as it demonstrates that society can willingly change its behaviour on a wider scale when presented with reasonable alternatives.

[1] - https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emiss...


I think grassroot movements and small NGOs should absolutely be focusing on personal choices that people can make to make themselves and their communities sustainable.

But the vast majority of government resources (money, attention and political capital) should be expended on reigning in systematic issues, such as outlined by GP: promoting electric vehicles, replacing all coal/oil/gas power plants, carbon neutral shipping and commercial flights etc

The shift of the global economy to sustainability is going to bring down lots of rich people and lots of vested interests, and replace it with other rich people and vested interests. The former are not going to go down without a big fight and only governments (and not individuals) are strong enough to bring them down.


To only look at only emissions by weight is a trap many fall into and vastly underestimates the impact animal agriculture has on 'climate change' when accounting for all factors. It drives around 75% of rain forest degredation [0], is the single biggest driver of habitat loss [1] and accounts for approximately 55% of land erosion [2], which all have massive escalatory effects on global warming.

Animal agriculture specifically represents 44 percent of anthropogenic methane emissions, the primary driver of climate change related to livestock, as methane is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 100 years[3]; comprises 44 percent of all anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions, the most potent GHG[3]; and makes up 75-80 percent of total agricultural emissions.[4]

Looking at emissions by metric tonnes is not just ignorant - it sets the completely wrong precedent of how we should view animal agriculture. Animal agriculture in its current state is dangerous, and should be treated with as much disdain as fossils fuels are.

[0] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971...

[1]https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sci...

[2]http://www.fao.org/3/a0701e/a0701e00.htm (See page 29)

[3]http://www.fao.org/3/i3437e/i3437e03.pdf

[4]http://www.fao.org/climatechange/36143-0fa4483057747f41c0818...


The problem is that in a thread about cutting back on transportation emissions, the top post will be about cows and wasteful agriculture and the emissions cost of transporting so much food and water long distances.

Instead of always shifting the blame to another thing, do what you can within your own means to attack all points at once: eat locally grown food and ideally cut back on meat consumption, particularly beef and fish (fish not for emissions, but due to the absolutely massive environmental damage that fish farming, trawling, and all methods aside from using your own rod do to everything); try to use public transportation, walk, or bike when possible or even try pushing your limits a little bit; don't buy worthless flavor of the month products or needlessly "upgrade" to new items when what you have works fine; and cut back on heating and AC when it's not going to be dangerous or unreasonably uncomfortable.

These are changes people can make in a month. The impact on your wallet with be noticeable fairly immediately, and if enough people actually follow it instead of kicking the can down the road, changes will be seen.


You are correct and link to a good source, so thank you, those two boxes are rare to check in a climate related contrarian-take.

But don't lose track of the engineering constraint here. We not only need to get to zero emissions, we need to get to roughly -20% emissions (relative to today). So the fact that something is "only" 9% of our positive number today in no way shields it from the necessary change that's coming ASAP.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that as a justification for behavior policing every little thing at once, but generally anything big enough to register on the gigaton scale we have to have a plan for NOW.

Its too late to do this serially.


That 9% is just what is emitted by the soil and animals itself if does not account for the transportation and electricity costs of agriculture.


This was a special report specifically on land use, so it makes sense they focused on diet and forests.


There are reasons other than climate change though.

If we don't switch to more sustainable diets we risk doing serious harm to the ecosystem and at least massively reducing biodiversity, if not actually placing humans in danger due to our reliance upon said ecosystem.

For me, I don't want to live in a world where wild animals are just a story I tell my kids while we visit a zoo.


Don't forget that the IPCC report concerns itself not only with preventing climate change, but also with adapting to it. What's more, changes in land management can be part of a solution for GHG sequestration, so it's not just about reducing emissions. All the more reasons to put significant effort on land management, and therefore diets and forests.

That being said, the IPCC never said that transportation, electricity production and industry must be ignored.


I am not sure how you interpreted it to mean "let's focus on diets". If somebody points out a problem it doesn't mean it's the problem. As far as I am aware no serious policy says let's focus on X. There is no one single low hanging fruit in climate problem. It would require big changes across the board (land use included).


I think the exciting thing about changing diet is that literally everyone could stop eating meet now and the world would continue as before and we’d wipe off that 9% over night. But stopping shipping, heating, aircon, electricity generation, manufacturing all overnight would bring about the end of civilisation. Literally. So I think it’s worth a go whilst we also solve the other problems in parallel. We have very little time left I fear.


Especially with transportation we should look at why it is happening and then see if it can be reduced. It’s not like transportation is happening for fun.


I really couldn’t agree more with your sentiment, bravo.

Out of all the potential progress that needs to be made, this can come last.


Well Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Changing your diet is easier than finding another form of transport anyway?

[1] - https://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/


In the book Drawdown, the top 10 best ways to combat climate change are:

1. Better refrigerant management, b/c refrigerants release significant potent GHG

2. Wind turbines to offset oil/gas

3. Reduced food waste

4. Plant-rich diet

5. Better tropical forest health

6. Better education for girls

7. Better family planning options

8. Solar Farms

9. Silopasture (forested and mixed agriculture plots)

10. Rooftop Solar

The list of top 50 continues cycling at about that frequency through unexpected engineering problems (e.g., 1), social issues (e.t. 3,6), and traditional O&G replacements (e.g., 10).

Saying this or that is the solution is just dumb. Saying it's "key" doesn't necessarily mean it's "the only keystone", I'd hope.


The reason it's 'key' is because adopting a plant-rich diet and reducing food waste are pretty much the only items on this Top 10 list that any individual regardless of location can decide to act upon right now.

Given that agriculture generates ~24% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions including ~48% of global methane emissions, it's a good start that gets individuals thinking conciously about their impact and encourages more action at the grassroots level.

Of course the other issues are just as urgent but those are altered by innovation and governments through taxes and legislation, which can be pushed along with the support of a more climate-concious society.


I read you.

There's a nit pick that rooftop solar is probably a fine individual choice, but there are complicating factors and a high upfront cost.


I failed to mention that these metrics are in terms of equivalent GT of CO2 reduced globally. There's also a metric of cost vs savings for each. Really a great reference book. For example, onshore wind and solar can save 12 Trillion by 2050 at a net cost of about a Trillion.


In case it's not clear, 6 above will presumably reduce carbon dioxide emissions by reducing female fertility and thus slowing population growth. In fact, 6 and 7 are essentially the same thing.


No, the only way to rein in global warming is to drastically reduce consumption, and vicariously, production - of everything. The chances of this happening are nil.

A new UN report claims water and land resources are being exploited at "unprecented rates", and this will become worse as water supply and agricultural yields diminish.

The next five to ten years are critical if something is to be done to stop or attenuate climate change. Unfortunately, very few people are prepared to make the necessary changes to their life style.


As lactose intolerant I have come to find the EU policy of vast overproduction of dairy problematic. Milk powder is stocked like crude oil reserves and used to influence the market, not only in the EU but also abroad. Cattle farming in Africa can not find a foothold because European products are subsidized so heavily using money lifted from EU taxes. Instead, they compete with substandard yogurt made from milk powder and palm oil.

Milk powder gets added to all kinds of foods it does not belong in because it is too cheap, and I suffer for it when something slips onto my dinner plate. An inflamed gut leads to mental health issues, and as we now know contributes to premature aging.

To me it looks like systematic poisoning of the food supply and I think it is a catastrophe in the making that nobody talks about.


So basically, milk powder is the EU's equivalent of the US's problem with corn syrup? That's rather interesting. I wouldn't even know how to use it as an ingredient, although that's true of at least half the stuff in most packaged foods.


Similar I suppose yes. I think it was in the '70s that there was talk in media here about butter mountains, so it's not a new problem either.

Forgot to say, industrial cattle farming also uses a lot of antibiotics. Haven't heard of superbugs escaping yet, perhaps because of competent veterinarians.


But wait! Maybe grasslands and grazing are better than forests - UC Davis study:

https://climatechange.ucdavis.edu/news/grasslands-more-relia...


*..."In Wildfire-Prone California"

The study says it could apply to other semi-arid environments as well. Interesting study but the qualifier is definitely necessary.


This is the problem:

"We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like."

...and this culture comes from the top.


Please explain how it "comes from the top".


Marketing. Who controls that?


"Sustainable diets" are often unhealthy, ultraprocessed, soy based carb heavy stuff that kills you off early. It is possible that people dying would rein in global warming but I'd like to pass on it. What most people need is a healthy mix of meat, dairy, veggies, and fruits. If you are not overweight, that alone saves a fair amount in GHG emissions.


As a child my family grew vegetables in a sustainable low carbon footprint way and I was very healthy by every metric. I don’t know what concept of “sustainable diets” you’ve been sold but whatever it is strikes me as very odd. Is the way I ate scalable? With vertical farming, I think quite likely actually.

Also if soy “kills you off” early then the longevity of the Japanese is quite a puzzle.


It’s not possible to feed a small family of 3-4 without having acreage. I’ve done container gardens (20-30 containers) to 20x20 plots. It was nice to have supplemental fresh veggies but it was expensive and not sustainable. It was a hobby so the expense was worth it.


I'm in a similar place. I do small scale biointensive urban backyard gardening, but it's almost certainly <1% of our annual food intake. Even with an aggressive preservation programme (freezing, canning, whatever), I can't imagine it really making a dent in our overall food footprint.


One thing I want to improve upon is staging plants, even plants of the same type. It doesn’t help if almost all of my cherry or heirloom tomatoes are ripe in the same couple weeks.

I’ve moved this year and have a bigger yard but too many trees for a garden. Trying to figure out where I can squeeze plants. What do you mean by biointensive?


See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biointensive_agriculture

Companion planting and composting is most of what we do. Also just overall density— for example, we have probably 2-3x the recommended number of tomato plants in a 4x10 raised bed, and are managing it by aggressively cutting back blighted leaves and controlling sucker growth + providing lots of physical support for the plants themselves.

Agree on staging as a challenge; I haven't figured out a good system for that. Conventionally, preserving has been the answer, but it's a lot of work to make that much tomato sauce and salsa, and better hope you like it if you'll be stuck eating it all winter!


Do you have a source given that vegetarians seem healthy and blue zones* (high frequency of centenarians) frequently have diets low in meat and/or dairy? Osaka, Seventh Day Adventist communities, etc. come to mind

(* at least the ones with reliable birth certificates)


Osaka has population of about 15 million - I'm not sure you can use that as any homogeneous community.


Some cultures eschew dairy almost entirely. Most of the world is lactose "intolerant" actually. Not sure why it would be considered an important part of ones diet.


Dairy is a key part of the diet of hundreds of millions of vegetarians. It's undeniably important to the diet of a large portion of India's population, for example.

A different sort of vegetarian diet might work without any dairy (I'm pretty sure this describes some traditional Buddhist food). Not everyone uses the same stuff.


And Inuits have tradirionally had an essentially carnivorous diet. Diets have adapted to niches from long ago - even though lactose tolerance is technically the mutation instead of lactose intolerance.


I think the biggest villain to healthy and environment is not animal products, but the industrialization of food.


It would be even worse for the environment if it wasn't industrialized actually. There is a reason why farms acreage is dropping - because less land is needed for the already overabundant food production.

Ironically industrialization of food saves habitats.


For industrialized I mean canned, over packaged, processed and refined stuff, also produces from vary far away on our daily diet, not against it but we do over consume this stuff. (Obs: thats what I see around me)

But also, mono-crops are another issue which comes from industrialization too. I'm not against machines and robots, but we are still figuring out a way of working with this stuff together with forests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSPNRu4ZPvE

Here farms acreage is increasing, more mono-crops and less forests, all with the help of industrialization, crops from other side of the world and endemic fruits, nuts disappearing and because of that loosing habitats.

At least eucalyptus is winning, even though native wood is better in so many ways, but the iron industry here don't buy the charcoal if not from mono-crops of eucalyptus.


I thought meat and diary farming was the biggest strain on environment? You can live pretty healthy while minimizing those product intake.


Not even close. Meat and dairy farming has been occurring for centuries, man-made climate change only recently.


Maybe that is because the scale is much larger nowadays?


Increase and demand.


You definitely don’t need dairy. The jury‘s still out on whether consuming cow milk is even healthy. E.g. broccoli is a good enough calcium source.

Meat might be necessary (vegans will disagree), but previous generations have done fine with only a couple of meals per week containing meat. Research suggests that we do better on less meat. Definitely stick to poultry if you want a smaller carbon footprint.

Fruit is not necessary, as some northern populations clearly demonstrated (they didn’t have any).


Meat is not necessary. Plenty of lifelong vegans healthy enough to disagree on that. However it's pretty well documented that a diet with an amount of meat is healthier than straight veganism, though in much lower amounts than we generally consume. Animal husbandry is also likely an important part of sustainable large scale agriculture, but again not in a way that remotely resembles modern mass scale cattle production.


Pretty well documented? That a pure vegetarian diet is good for longevity is very well established. Eg this study of 73000 people published in JAMA https://www.livescience.com/37102-vegetarians-live-longer.ht...

These are, of course, micro optimisations versus the importance of good genes and there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding these studies... but the notion that meat is important for good health is absolutely false.


Compared to veganism, not lacto-ovo vegetarianism. It's of course a difficult issue due to conflating factors, i.e. to speculate wildly the mental heath effects of being vegan in a world that hates them.

Your article puts pescatarians at the top in longevity but has vegans above lacto-ovo vegetarians. Maybe dairy is an issue and just ovo vegetarian is the answer.


Indeed.

My speculation: diets high in vegetables and low in meat reduce inflammation and improve gut bacteria (this is true). So I’m guessing since there are connections between mental health and both perhaps the diet itself is beneficial to mental health?

Fact: And as for hated... it’s so mainstream in London now that if you’re a supermarket or restaurant without vegan options you’re going to lose a lot of business. Many explicitly advertise selling vegan stuff. I think it’s very accepted here now and I expect that to be a trend everywhere.

My speculation: it seems that the key component in fish is the oil and for that there’s algae alternatives. So perhaps a vegan diet with fish oil is the ideal one.

Single data point and context; I’m 100% vegetarian, 99% vegan, eat algae oil and am very healthy. Do with that info as you please ;)


Nothing processed about a tin of chickpeas.


I was talking about things like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger.


That stuff really has no place in a healthy diet. It’s is indeed highly processed and mainly designed for taste and texture. If you want to go vegetarian stay away from things that try to emulate meat. That’s not a good path. Instead look at real vegetarian dishes that stand in their own . Indian cuisine is full of them for example. Italian cooking also has lots of them.


Those vegan burger patties are explicitly a replacement for regular patties, which are also pretty ultraprocessed (esp. when you consider what goes into the cow before its meat gets ground down).


Sure, I agree but that's not a whole foods plant-based diet anyway (which is what the article is actually relating to).


I don't know, I ceased regarding the UN as a source of scientific observations. This sounds like a PC person in an office publishing a memo.


Listen to every single other report about it then. All the same result.


Directly contradicted by observations above. Try again.


The first half of the statement is a load of crap because forest fires will accelerate glacial melt and climate instability. Heck, Thunderf00t just debunked the recent Somalia virtue-signaling as completely futile. What needs to happen is net zero carbon emissions with large-scale permanent carbon sequestration. Tens of trillions of USD to get back to pre-industrial levels of GHGs is affordable and vital.

- Curtail use of fossil-fuels and animal agriculture

- Switch from carbon-polluting Portland cement manufacturing to carbon neutral or negative cement production

- Iron seed the oceans to spur seaweed blooms

- Seaweed: Salvage, closed-system burn and bury carbon emissions deep

- Also, separate CO2 from air and bury it

- Reintroduce large managed herds of grazing animals at the interface of desertification to restore grassland soil health

- Resurrect wooly mammoth hybrids in large herds to deforest arboreal tundra back to grassland tundra to stop carbon and land loss




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