Acolleague attending the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow was in line at an eatery when she observed the man in front of her ordering a beef taco. She saw that his backpack sported the logo of a leading global conservation organization. When she asked if he worked for this group (a household name in many parts of the world), he replied that he did. In Brazil, he added. “My mouth dropped,” she recalled. “And you ordered beef?” she asked. His reply? “It isn’t a problem.”
Those of us who have been trying to alert COP and other international conferences for more than a decade to the outsized role of large-scale animal agriculture in deforestation, biodiversity loss, the epidemic of non-communicable diseases, and the climate emergency would beg to differ. It’s a very big problem—for a multitude of reasons.
The first problem is that too many people think it isn’t a problem—to the extent that, as the taco-eater might have been suggesting, whether you eat beef or not is merely a personal choice that has no effect on the world around you or the person next to you.
The second problem is that international animal welfare groups and, indeed, until relatively recently, international environmental organizations have been late to confronting the ever-growing carbon footprint and the entrenched power of Big Ag and large-scale animal agriculture, in particular. This is ironic since animal agriculture is destroying the habitat upon which the megafauna and ecosystems championed by these conservation groups depend. It’s high time that animal and environmental protection groups recognized that the ideological and conceptual lines they’ve drawn between wild animals and ecosystems on one side and domesticated animals, factory farms, and monocultures of feedstock are no longer viable. As we’ve been arguing for years: You cannot save the former without confronting the latter.
The third problem is that too few people—even those in decision-making positions—understand that the reason why so much of, say, the Amazon Rainforest is being logged, or why farmers around the world are growing so much soy, wheat, and corn is either to graze cattle or to provide feedstock for livestock in factory farms around the globe. This ignorance is both due to deliberate obfuscation on behalf of Big Ag, which doesn’t want you to know what destruction they’re causing, and our own unwillingness to delve too deeply into an industry of mass slaughter. As for policymakers, either they don’t dare touch the issue of meat for fear they’ll be called the enemies of farmers, ranchers, culture, tradition, family, or even God; or, they’re so in thrall to the consumer-choice paradigm at the heart of our economic system that any notion of reducing meat consumption through carrots or sticks remains off the table.
Even in the welcome announcement from COP26 that the U.S. and 104 other countries are resolved to cut methane emissions the “it’s not a problem” psychology is at work. Methane (CH4) is at least eighty times more intensive a greenhouse gas than CO2. Because CH4 lasts less long in the atmosphere, tackling it now would not only offer a greater short-term impact by flattening the rising temperature curve slightly, but would potentially buy human civilization a few more years to set in place systems to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
Fossil fuels are responsible for 35 percent of human-caused methane emissions, according to the UN Environment Programme’s global methane assessment. But agriculture is the biggest source of methane, and the livestock sector alone is responsible for 32 percent. Yet, in the methane announcement, you’d be hard-pressed to find policies to address a “problem” that generates almost one-third of all these methane emissions. (A joint U.S-China statement just released makes a commitment to measure and mitigate methane from fossil fuel and waste, as well as “incentives and programs to reduce methane from the agricultural sector.” But they shared no further details or, importantly, timelines.)
The final problem lies with the so-called solutions offered by those who actually recognize the problem that animal agriculture poses to the planet. Thus, biogas, seaweed, insect-based cattle feed, “sustainable intensification,” and regenerative agriculture are seen as “solutions.” These may help, but will they end an industry that gulps down 29 percent of Earth’s potable water; uses a quarter of all arable land for cattle grazing and one-third for livestock feed; threatens Indigenous Peoples’ territory and rights; drives deforestation throughout the world; may incubate the next zoonotic pandemic and destroy the effectiveness of our antibiotics; pollutes waterways and fouls the air; may drive 17,000 species extinct by 2050, and already kills 80 billion land and trillions of marine animals each year? And for what? A beef taco?
It’s unclear whether or not governments, industry, and big finance, both private and public, will ever take meat production and consumption seriously enough to find the courage to reduce both significantly. What we do know, however, is that until the majority of us admit “it’s a problem,” the problem will keep getting bigger. There will be no low-carbon economy, no “net zero,” no safe levels of warming, and no ending deforestation (commitments or otherwise) until we face the cow in the room at this year’s and every future climate change conference.Read More
Exclusive: IPCC says gas, produced by farming, shale gas and oil extraction, playing ever-greater role in overheating planetFiona Harvey Environment correspondentFri 6 Aug 2021 02.00 EDT
Cutting carbon dioxide is not enough to solve the climate crisis – the world must act swiftly on another powerful greenhouse gas, methane, to halt the rise in global temperatures, experts have warned.
Leading climate scientists will give their starkest warning yet – that we are rushing to the brink of climate catastrophe – in a landmark report on Monday. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish its sixth assessment report, a comprehensive review of the world’s knowledge of the climate crisis and how human actions are altering the planet. It will show in detail how close the world is to irreversible change.
One of the key action points for policymakers is likely to be a warning that methane is playing an ever greater role in overheating the planet. The carbon-rich gas, produced from animal farming, shale gas wells and poorly managed conventional oil and gas extraction, heats the world far more effectively than carbon dioxide – it has a “warming potential” more than 80 times that of CO2 – but has a shorter life in the atmosphere, persisting for about a decade before it degrades into CO2.Emissions from cows on New Zealand dairy farms reach record levels
Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and a lead reviewer for the IPCC, said methane reductions were probably the only way of staving off temperature rises of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which extreme weather will increase and “tipping points” could be reached. “Cutting methane is the biggest opportunity to slow warming between now and 2040,” he said. “We need to face this emergency.”https://c6ee67f87568d73b16477d514712daf5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Zaelke said policymakers must heed the IPCC findings on methane before the UN climate talks, Cop26, in Glasgow in November. “We need to see at Cop26 a recognition of this problem, that we need to do something on this.”
Cutting methane could balance the impact of phasing out coal, a key goal at Cop26 because it is the dirtiest fossil fuel and has caused sharp rises in emissions in recent years. However, coal use has a perverse climate effect: the particles of sulphur it produces shield the Earth from some warming by deflecting some sunlight.
That means the immediate effect of cutting coal use could be to increase warming, although protecting the Earth in the medium and long term. Zaelke said cutting methane could offset that. “Defossilisation will not lead to cooling until about 2050. Sulphur falling out of the atmosphere will unmask warming that is already in the system,” he said.
“Climate change is like a marathon – we need to stay in the race. Cutting carbon dioxide will not lead to cooling in the next 10 years, and beyond that our ability to tackle climate change will be so severely compromised that we will not be able to run on. Cutting methane gives us time.”Britain could be taking the lead in tackling the climate crisis. Where’s the ambition? | Keir Starmer
Levels of methane have risen sharply in recent years, caused by shale gas, poorly managed conventional gas, oil drilling and meat production. Last year, methane emissions rose by a record amount, according to the UN environment programme.https://c6ee67f87568d73b16477d514712daf5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Satellite data shows that some of the key sources of methane are poorly managed Russian oil and gas wells. Gas can be extracted from conventional drilling using modern techniques that all but eliminate “fugitive” or accidental methane emissions. But while countries such as Qatar take care over methane, Russia, which is a party to the 2015 Paris climate agreement but has made little effort to cut its emissions, has some of the leakiest infrastructure.
“Today more than 40% of EU gas is methane heavy gas from Russia, which is worse than coal for the climate,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser now with the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington. “The EU should begin to measure and then regulate methane emissions from all its natural gas imports to begin a cleanup of global natural gas.”
Reducing methane emissions can save money. The UN’s assessment found that about half of the reductions in methane needed could be achieved with a quick payback.https://c6ee67f87568d73b16477d514712daf5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
Zaelke urged governments to consider crafting a new deal, alongside the Paris agreement, that would cover methane and require countries to sharply reduce their gas. “I predict we will have to have a global methane agreement,” he said.
Methane is also produced by melting permafrost, and there have been indications that the Siberian heatwave could increase emissions of the gas. However, large-scale emissions from permafrost melting are thought to be still some way off, while emissions of methane from agriculture and industry can be tackled today.
“Without innovation, we will not solve climate change. We won’t even come close,” Gates says. Anderson Cooper reports for 60 Minutes.
- 2021Feb 15
- CORRESPONDENTAnderson Cooper
Bill Gates helped usher in the digital revolution at Microsoft, and has spent the decades since exploring – and investing in – innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems – global poverty, disease, and the coronavirus pandemic, which he’s spent nearly $2 billion on.
Now he is focusing on climate change, agreeing with the overwhelming majority of scientists who warn of a looming climate disaster. The good news is Gates believes it’s possible to prevent a catastrophic rise in temperatures. The bad news? He says in the next 30 years we need scientific breakthroughs, technological innovations and global cooperation on a scale the world has never seen.
Anderson Cooper: You believe this is the toughest challenge humanity has ever faced?
Bill Gates: Absolutely. The amount of change, new ideas. It’s way greater than the pandemic. And it needs a level of cooperation that would be unprecedented.
Anderson Cooper: That doesn’t sound feasible–
Bill Gates: No, it’s not easy. But hey, we have 30 years–
Anderson Cooper: It sounds impossible.
Bill Gates: We have more educated people than ever. We have a generation that’s speaking out on this topic. And, you know, I got to participate in the miracle of the personal computer and the internet. And so, yes, I have a bias to believe innovation can do these things.
He is talking about innovations in every aspect of modern life – manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, because nearly everything we now do releases earth warming greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. He took us to his favorite burger joint in Seattle to explain.
Anderson Cooper: You’re talking about changing everything in the economy, I mean, every aspect of it–
Bill Gates: In the phy– yeah, the physical–
Anderson Cooper: So–
Bill Gates: –economy–
Anderson Cooper: Of what we can see right now, of us sitting around here, what specifically would be impacted?
Bill Gates: Well, this cement would be made in a different way. The steel in the building would be different. You know, the meat in the burgers a big deal. These– you know, all this plastic and paper–potatoes.
Anderson Cooper: With potatoes you’re talking about fertilizer, the irrigation system that’s used.
Bill Gates: All the tractors, the transport.
Anderson Cooper: The trucks that bring them to this restaurant, all that has to change?
Bill Gates: Hey, when you’re going to zero, you don’t get to skip anything.
Gates says going to zero means eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions. Or else…
Anderson Cooper: If they wait 100 years to do this…
Bill Gates: It’s way too late. Then the natural ecosystems will have failed. The instability, you know, the migration. You know, those things will– will get really, really bad well before the end of the century.
Anderson Cooper: When you talk about migration, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people trying to move from North Africa to Europe every year?
Bill Gates: Exactly. The Syrian War was a 20th of what climate migration will look like. So, the deaths per year are way, ten times greater than– than what we’ve experienced in the pandemic.
In a new book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.” Gates outlines all the solutions he believes we need.
He says the U.S. has to lead the world getting to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He supports President Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, but is asking the administration to massively increase the budget for climate and clean energy research to $35 billion a year.
Anderson Cooper: You’ve said that governments need to do the hard stuff, but not just go after the low-hanging fruit. What– what’s low-hanging fruit?
Bill Gates: Passenger cars, part of the electric generation with renewables. The things everybody knows about, that’s getting almost all the money, not the hard parts, which is the industrial piece including the steel and cement. Those pieces we’ve hardly started to work on.
No one thinks much about cement and steel, but making it accounts for 16% of all carbon dioxide emissions. And the demand is only growing. The world will add an estimated two and a half trillion square feet of buildings by 2060 — that’s the equivalent of putting up another New York City every month for the next 40 years.
So one innovative company Gates has been pouring money into is CarbonCure. They inject captured carbon dioxide into concrete.
Bill Gates: What they do is they stick CO2 in here in the cement, and they mix them up. And so, you’re able to actually get rid of some CO2 by sticking it in the cement. Right now they get rid of about 5%. But they have a next generation that can get to 30%.
Anderson Cooper: The carbon has been just injected into this so it’s captured it. So, it’s not gonna be released into the atmosphere.
Bill Gates: That’s right.
Gates has already invested $2 billion of his own money on new green technologies, and plans to spend several billion more.
In 2016 he also recruited Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg and nearly two dozen other wealthy investors to back a billion-dollar fund called “breakthrough energy ventures,” making long-term, often risky investments in promising technologies.
Gates regularly consults with the fund’s team of top scientists and entrepreneurs who’ve so far invested in 50 companies with cutting edge ideas to reduce carbon emissions.
Anderson Cooper: What’s like, the most far-flung idea you’ve backed?
Bill Gates: There’s one that’s so crazy it’s even hard to describe.
Anderson Cooper: Wait a minute, it’s so crazy it’s hard to describe?
Bill Gates: Even f– yeah.
Anderson Cooper: How do you pitch that–
Bill Gates: And–
Anderson Cooper: -to investors?
Bill Gates: Well, they find geological formations, and they just pump water down into them. The energy they’ve used to pump it in, then they can draw that energy back out. So it’s– it’s a water pressure storage thing, which, you know, when I first saw it I thought, “That can’t work.” But–
Anderson Cooper: But you gave money to it?
Bill Gates: Yeah, lots of money.
Because cows account for around 4% of all greenhouse gases, Gates has invested in two companies making plant based meat substitutes, impossible foods and beyond meat. But farming the vegetables used to make many meat alternatives emits gases as well, so Gates is also backing a company that’s created an entirely new food source.
Bill Gates: This company, Nature’s Fynd, is using fungis. And then they turn them into sausage and yogurt. Pretty amazing.
Anderson Cooper: When you say fungi, do you mean like mushroom or a microbe?
Bill Gates: It’s a microbe.
The microbe was discovered in the ground in a geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Without soil or fertilizer it can be grown to produce this nutritional protein — that can then be turned into a variety of foods with a small carbon footprint.
Bill Gates: This is the yogurt.
Anderson Cooper: Oh this is good.
Bill Gates: Wow.
Anderson Cooper: I’ve had, like, cashew yogurt or oat yogurt. It’s– it’s sort of along those lines.
Gates never planned to focus on climate change, but while working in Africa with the foundation he started with his wife, Melinda, in 2000, he came to see just how vulnerable those in developing countries are to the effects of rising temperatures.
So 15 years ago Gates started educating himself on climate change, bringing scientists and engineers to his office in Seattle for what he calls “learning sessions.” He also reads voraciously, books and binders full of scientific research.
Bill Gates: Yeah, so this is the most recent one, which is about clean hydrogen.
Anderson Cooper: So you’re reading thousands of pages every few days on topics?
Bill Gates: Yeah. My reading is, is key. and then asking questions when it doesn’t make sense.
Gates isn’t just looking to cut future carbon emissions, he is also investing in direct air capture, an experimental process to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some companies are now using these giant fans to capture CO2 directly out of the air, Gates has become one of the world’s largest funders of this kind of technology.
But of all his green investments, Gates has spent the most time and money pursuing a breakthrough in nuclear energy — arguing it’s key to a zero carbon future.
He says he’s a big believer in wind and solar and thinks it can one day provide up to 80% of the country’s electricity, but Gates insists unless we discover an effective way to store and ship wind and solar energy, nuclear power will likely have to do the rest. Energy from nuclear plants can be stored so it’s available when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
Anderson Cooper: Were you always a big proponent of nuclear?
In 2008 he founded TerraPower, a company that has re-designed a nuclear reactor.
Anderson Cooper: This is your prototype?
Bill Gates: Exactly. TerraPower’s Natrium Reactor. This is a rendering, we haven’t built it yet. But here’s the nuclear island right here.
Anderson Cooper: This is the reactor?
Bill Gates: Exactly.
Gates says TerraPower’s reactor is less expensive to build, produces less waste and is fully automated, reducing the potential for human error. Gates and director of engineering Lindsey Boles showed us what they say is another key to its safety.
Anderson Cooper: What is it that we’re looking at here?
Lindsey Boles: So these individual fuel pins are actually where the uranium fuel is. And that’s what generates all the heat in our natrium reactor.
Anderson Cooper: This is what everybody is worried about?
Lindsey Boles: Yes, exactly.
Bill Gates: In a normal reactor, it’s water that’s flowing past and heating up. And it’ll boil and– and generate a lot of high pressure.
That high heat and pressure can cause an explosion, like in Chernobyl in 1986 when radioactive material was spread for thousands of miles.
But Gates says the TerraPower reactor won’t use water to cool down the fuel rods — they plan to use liquid sodium.
Bill Gates: The liquid sodium can absorb a lot more heat. And so we– we don’t have any high pressure inside the reactor.
In October, the Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $80 million to build one of the first advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S.
Bill Gates: Nuclear power can be done in a way that none of those failures of the past would recur, because just the physics of how it’s built. I admit, convincing people of that will be almost as hard as actually building it. But since it may be necessary to avoid climate change, we shouldn’t give up.
Anderson Cooper: You’ve been criticized for being a technocrat, saying technology is the only solution for– for tackling climate change. There are other people that say, “Look, the solutions are already there. It’s just government policy is what really needs to be focused on.
Gates credits young activists for keeping climate change in the headlines. But he knows some consider him an imperfect ally.
Anderson Cooper: Are you the right messenger on this? Because you fly private planes a lot. And you’re creating a lot of greenhouse gases yourself.
Bill Gates: Yeah. I probably have one of the highest greenhouse gas footprints of anyone on the planet. You know, my– my–
Anderson Cooper: It’s kind of ironic.
Bill Gates: –personal flying alone is gigantic. Now, I’m spending quite a bit to buy aviation fuel that was made with plants. You know, I switched to an electric car. I use solar panels. I’m paying a company that actually at a very high price, can pull a bit of carbon out of the air and stick it underground. And so I’m offsetting my personal emissions.
Anderson Cooper: Those are called carbon offsets?
Bill Gates: Right. So you know, it’s costing like $400 a ton. It’s like $7 million.
Anderson Cooper: So you’re paying $7 million a year to offset your carbon footprint?
Bill Gates: Yup.
He’s encouraging others who can afford it to buy carbon offsets and green products so that what he calls “the green premium,” the added production cost for reducing carbon emissions, will go down and quality of products up — driving the innovations that may get us to zero.
Anderson Cooper: It just seems overwhelming if every aspect of our daily life has to–
Bill Gates: It–
Anderson Cooper: –change.
Bill Gates: It can seem overwhelming.
Anderson Cooper: But you are optimistic?
Bill Gates: Yeah. There are days when it looks very hard. If people think it’s easy, they’re wrong. If people think it’s impossible they’re wrong.
Anderson Cooper: It’s possible.
Bill Gates: It’s possible. But it’ll be the most amazing thing mankind has ever done.
Anderson Cooper: That’s what it has to be?
Bill Gates: Yeah. It’s an all-out effort, you know, like a world war, but it’s us against greenhouse gases.
David Attenborough says eating free-range meat is a ‘middle-class hypocrisy’ – and that he is ‘troubled’ when he eats fish and chicken.
The veteran broadcaster made the comments during an interview with the Radio Times magazine ahead of the launch of his new film David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet.
Sir David said he ‘couldn’t remember’ when he’d last eaten meat, and that it was ‘years ago’.
But he then revealed: ” I eat fish, and chicken, and my conscience does trouble me.
“I’m affluent enough to afford free-range, but it’s a middle-class hypocrisy.”
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet premieres on September 28. It will launch on Netflix in October.
The film covers the period of his life, outlining the defining moments, and highlighting how the environment has been damaged during that time.
Announcing the launch of the film, Sir David warned: “Humanity is at a crossroads and I think the natural world is really under serious, serious threat.”
Veteran presenter Sir David Attenborough has urged the public to ditch meat and work towards a plant-based diet in his new documentary A Life On Our Planet.
The film, which premieres in U.K cinemas for one night only on September 28, looks at the environmental changes that have happened on Earth over Sir David’s lifetime and offers some solutions to the climate crisis.
‘We must change our diet’
According to the Mirror, the historian said: “We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters.
“If we had a mostly plant-based diet we could increase the yield of the land. We have an urgent need for free land… Nature is our biggest ally.”
Sir David also warned that the ‘natural world is fading’ and predicts the loss of biodiversity, which he describes as the true tragedy of our times – is ‘still unfolding’.
‘A Life On Our Planet’
“I am David Attenborough, and I am 93. I’ve had the most extraordinary life. It is only now that I appreciate how extraordinary,” Sir David says in the film’s trailer.
“Our planet is headed for disaster. We need to learn how to work with nature rather than against it and I’m going to tell you how.”
By Jeffrey Spitz Cohan
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — COVID-19 has been a miserable, even tragic, experience.
Another killer pandemic? It’s certainly not something we want to experience again anytime soon, or ever.
I know San Diego, where I grew up, has suffered greatly at the hands, or spikes, of the coronavirus.
But here’s the good news. If we’re serious about greatly reducing the chances of a second, quite possibly worse, pandemic, the solution is simple and comes with wonderful side effects.
A transition to plant-based diets on the individual level, and away from animal agriculture on the societal level, will not only help prevent another pandemic – it will improve your health, spare animals from suffering, reduce environmental degradation, and even lessen world hunger.
A little history is in order.
Throughout most of human history, there were no epidemic diseases.
“No one got the flu, not even the common cold, until about 10,000 years ago,” said Dr. Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.
What happened 10,000 years ago? We began domesticating animals.
“When we brought domesticated animals to the barnyard, they brought their diseases with them,” Greger said.
Measles, for instance, has killed 200 million people over the course of history. It entered into the human population from cattle, in the form of the rinderpest virus.
The flu, which takes the form of many viruses, originally came from domesticated ducks.
Even the common cold came from horses.
In the mid-20th century, scientists developed vaccines to slow and even stop the spread of some of the worst infectious diseases. Measles. Polio. Smallpox.
But in the last 35 years or so, humanity has been visited by an unprecedented variety of frightening virus outbreaks.
AIDS. Ebola. Mad cow disease. SARS. MERS. The swine flu. And now COVID-19.
In addition to their lethality, these viral outbreaks have something else in common. All of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they spilled over from animals into the human population.
In fact, all of them have come about because of the confinement, slaughter and consumption of animals. Yes, even AIDS.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, made the jump from animals to people when someone slaughtered a chimpanzee for meat. The chimpanzee was carrying the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV).
Fortunately, we have the power to greatly reduce our chances of creating another pandemic.
“To prevent future outbreaks like COVID-19 or worse, we have to treat planetary, animal and human health as inseparable,” Viveca Morris, executive director of the Law, Ethics & Animals Program at Yale Law School, wrote recently in The Los Angeles Times. “This will require … changes to business as usual.
“To date, we’ve operated under the fallacies that medicine and ecology can be understood independently and that the conditions that impact the animal kingdom are separate from those that impact humans.”
Preventing future outbreaks will require some dietary modifications. Positive ones. Eating plants, not animals.
In the words of University of Oxford zoologist Cynthia Schuck, “Our purchasing and dietary choices can build a safer future for generations to come.”
Jeffrey Spitz Cohan is the executive director of Jewish Veg, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and helping Jews to adopt plant-based diets. He grew up in El Cajon and became a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Israel. For more information on the connection between pandemics and meat-eating, and for free resources on transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, visit JewishVeg.org/pandemic