Category Archive 'Lord Stern'

27 Oct 2009

Repent! The End is Near

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Lord Stern, British Government Climate Expert and Chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, recently advised the London Times that we all need to stop consuming meat.

People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas.

Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse

He predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating,” he said. “I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food.”…

Lord Stern said that Copenhagen presented a unique opportunity for the world to break free from its catastrophic current trajectory. He said that the world needed to agree to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 25 gigatonnes a year from the current level of 50 gigatonnes.

UN figures suggest that meat production is responsible for about 18 per cent of global carbon emissions, including the destruction of forest land for cattle ranching and the production of animal feeds such as soy.

Lord Stern, who said that he was not a strict vegetarian himself, was speaking on the eve of an all-parliamentary debate on climate change. His remarks provoked anger from the meat industry.

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British poverty journalist Alex Renton, on the other hand, argues that to save the planet from overheating we need to go farther still and give up reproducing. The Red Chinese offer a model of coercive birth control.

The worst thing that you or I can do for the planet is to have children. If they behave as the average person in the rich world does now, they will emit some 11 tonnes of CO² every year of their lives. In their turn, they are likely to have more carbon-emitting children who will make an even bigger mess. If Britain is to meet the government’s target of an 80% reduction in our emissions by 2050, we need to start reversing our rising rate of population growth immediately.

And if that makes sense, why not start cutting population everywhere? Are condoms not the greenest technology of all? …

the richer a country gets, the more pressing the need for it to curb its population. The only nation to have taken steps to do this is China – and the way it went about enforcing the notorious one child policy is one of the reasons the rest of us are so horrified by the notion of state intervention. Yet China now has 300-400 million fewer people. It was certainly the most successful governmental attempt to preserve the world’s resources so far.

But lowering birth rate need not be so draconian. Experience shows it is most effectively done by ensuring women’s equality and improving their education, while providing cheap contraception. Birth rate, gender equality, education and poverty are inextricably linked.

But how do you reduce population in countries where women’s rights are already achieved and birth-control methods are freely available? Could children perhaps become part of an adult’s personal carbon allowance? Could you offer rewards: have one child only and you may fly to Florida once a year?

After all, based on current emissions and life expectancy, one less British child would permit some 30 women in sub-Saharan Africa to have a baby and still leave the planet a cleaner place.

If you have faith in the rich world’s ability to achieve those 80% cuts in emissions in a mere 40 years, you need not concern yourself too much about population. But if you are sceptical, you should be worried. A lot.

Some scientists, the German chancellor’s adviser, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber among them, say that if the cuts are not achieved, we will end up with a planet with a “carrying capacity” of just 1bn humans. If so, we need to start cutting back population now with methods that offer a humane choice – before it happens the hard way

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It would be so much easier and more agreeable to stop paying attention to the ravings of crazy people who have embraced apocalyptic fantasies.

They had these sorts of zanies proclaiming the world would be destroyed shortly unless everyone repented and did all sorts of ridiculous and inconvenient things back in the Middle Ages, too, but fortunately the Inquisition usually came along and eliminated these pernicious heretics.


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