By Juliette Jowit
People will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change, a major new report warns.
The report, by the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Surrey, also says total food consumption should be reduced, especially “low nutritional value” treats such as alcohol, sweets and chocolates.
It urges people to return to habits their mothers or grandmothers would have been familiar with: buying locally in-season products, cooking in bulk and in pots with lids or pressure cookers, avoiding waste and walking to the shops – alongside more modern tips such as using the microwave and internet shopping.
The report goes much further than any previous advice after mounting concern about the impact of the livestock industry on greenhouse gases and rising food prices.
Tara Garnett, the report’s author, warned that campaigns encouraging people to change their habits voluntarily were doomed to fail and urged the government to use caps on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pricing to ensure changes were made. “Food is important to us in a great many cultural and symbolic ways, and our food choices are affected by cost, time, habit and other influences,” the report says. “Study upon study has shown that awareness-raising campaigns alone are unlikely to work, particularly when it comes to more difficult changes.”
it recommended cutting meat consumption by at least half and making sure animals were fed as much as possible on grass and food waste which could not be eaten by humans.
The head of the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change, Rajendra Pachauri, also sparked global debate this month when he urged people to have at least one meat-free day a week.
It also revealed which parts of the food chain were the most polluting. Although packaging has had a lot of media and political attention, it only ranked fifth in importance behind agriculture – especially the methane produced by livestock burping – manufacturing, transport, and cooking and refrigeration at home.
Guardian Readers Comments:
Sep 30 08, 4:43pm
Apparently there is no rationing requirement on stupidity, as this article so aptly demonstrates.
Perhaps we could put some of the NYSE/FTSE unemployed in the business of cow fart monitoring.
Sep 30 08, 12:39pm
The bottom line for me is that we need indeed to ration. We need to ration carbon emissions, some people will still eat a lot of meat and use carbon less in other areas but many will then eat less meat.But we need to ration carbon to avoid runaway climate change whilst offering people choice in what they do.
And we need to make the transition in a just manner – so redistribution of income is needed at the same time as this rationing process.
Eating less meat or producing less carbon emissions generally will not necessarily equate to cooking from scratch but indeed many what might be termed more traditional behaviours might emit less carbon.
With peak oil leading fuel price rises anyway consumers will be led to change much of their behaviour whatever happens. But I hope we have a change in behaviour led mainly by the sensible process of allocating carbon in a way which allows us to avoid the devastation of runaway climate change.