Monday, March 2, 2009

Ditch meat, save the Earth?

CUTTING back on beefburgers and bacon could wipe $20 trillion from the cost of fighting climate change.

So says Elke Stehfest of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and colleagues. They totted up how our diet would affect the cost of ensuring global carbon dioxide levels rise no higher than 450 parts per million by 2050. This limit may prevent catastrophic drought and sea-level rises.

The calculations show that reducing individual meat intake to 70 grams of beef or pork a week (a quarter-pounder is 113 grams) would create a carbon sink in the form of 15 million square kilometres of abandoned farmland. Greenhouse gas emissions would also fall by 10 per cent due to the drop in livestock.

All this would lessen the need for technologies such as "clean coal" power plants and save huge sums, say the team (Climatic Change, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6).

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