The Carnivore’s Carbon Footprint

May 6 2013 @ 10:09am

It’s pretty big:

In their report, [World Bank advisers Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang] note that when you account for feed production, deforestation and animal waste, the livestock industry produces between 18 percent and 51 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Add to this the fact that producing animal protein involves up to eight times more fossil fuel than what’s needed to produce an equivalent amount of non-animal protein, and you see that climate change isn’t intensified only by necessities like transportation and electricity. It is also driven in large part by subjective food preferences — more precisely, by American consumers’ unnecessary desire to eat, on average, 200 pounds of meat every year.

Meanwhile, Mark Bittman’s new book, VB6, recommends going vegan before 6 pm as a way to eat environmentally and lose weight, with the added benefit that “I can eat whatever I want in the evening, thus hanging out with my friends without appearing weird.” Tyler Cowen is on board:

As I’ve argued in my own An Economist Gets Lunch, eating less meat is the most socially beneficial change in your dietary habits you can make.  Here’s one very good way to do it. Of course the economist in me wonders why Bittman chose “vegan before 6 p.m.” rather than after 6 p.m. or for that matter after some point closer to the middle of the day.  Is it simply two meals vs. one?  Or is it that the prospect of meat and dairy in the evening makes vegan eating during the day more tolerable, whereas the opposite would require too much retrenchment to be sustainable?