USA, July 10, 2016 (by Rachel Premack, Washington Post): It may be delicious, but the evidence is accumulating that meat, particularly red meat, is just a disaster for the environment -- and not so great for human beings, too. By 2050, scientists forecast that emissions from agriculture alone will account for how much carbon dioxide the world can use to avoid catastrophic global warming. It already accounts for one-third of emissions today--and half of that comes from livestock. That's a driving reason why members of a United Nations panel last month urged its environmental assembly to consider recommending a tax on meat producers and sellers. By raising the cost of buying meat, it would ultimately aim to reduce production and the demand for it.
Maarten Hajer, professor at the Netherlands Utrecht University, led the environment and food report that recommended the meat tax. "All of the harmful effects on the environment and on health needs to be priced into food products," said Hajer, who is a member of U.N.'s International Resource Panel, which comprises 34 top scientists and 30 governments. "I think it is extremely urgent." But, he added, "Food is very political. In countries where meat is a cultural mainstay and income inequality already breeds a lack of food access, it could be a difficult argument. But, governments must soon move to limit major carbon producers, Hajer said. Food companies will naturally be part of that.
The idea of a meat tax has developed over the past 25 years as a "completely obvious" measure to economists and environmentalists, Hajer said, as knowledge of the environmental toll of meat emerged. Agriculture consumes 80 percent of water in the United States. For a kilogram of red meat, you need considerably more water than for plant products. Governments are starting to take notice. China, which consumes half of the world's pork and more than a quarter of its overall meat, announced new dietary guidelines last week that advises the average citizen to reduce their meat consumption by one-half.
Denmark went a little further in May. The Danish government is considering a recommendation from its ethics council that all red meats should be taxed. Red meat accounts for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the council argued that Danes were "ethically obliged" to reduce their consumption. Countries such as the Czech Republic and Poland have dramatically reduced their agricultural carbon output, as much as a half. But countries that are expanding their meat-lovers' impulses are doing so at much larger jumps. Brazil's carbon output from food production has increased by 47 percent from 2000 to 2012--that's an increase of 150 million tons of carbon dioxide. In China, a 35-percent jump from 1994 to 2005 means 220 million more tons of carbon dioxide.
Much of that is meat production, which contributes an estimated 14.5 percent to annual greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than emissions from every car, train, ship and airplane combined. Of that, 65 percent is enteric fermentation [google it] and manure, according to a 2014 Chatham House analysis. Feed constitutes one-fifth of that, followed by land-use change, energy use and post-farm activities. Along with a tax, a meat cutback could be achieved by making plant-based diets more appealing and less expensive. People in the West often think that vegetarianism is a diet for wealthier folks, Wellesley said. The United States could slash its health-care spending the most by phasing out meat for vegetables.
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