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'Go veggie to save the planet' UN, EU plans debunked

Boffin rubbishes Paul McCartney lentil-noshing plan

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Yet more United Nations analysis of the measures necessary to combat climate change has come under fire from scientists.

This time, rather than the (in)famous 2007 assessment report from the UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the criticism is levelled at a 2006 report called Livestock's Long Shadow issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. This document states that the widespread eating of meat and dairy products is a serious threat to the environment.

According to the UN, in fact, livestock actually results in the emission of more greenhouse gases than transport does. The executive summary of Livestock's Long Shadow states that:

The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.

This analysis has been a big factor in persuading concerned citizens around the world that going veggie is important in order to save the planet. No less an ecological expert than Sir Paul McCartney, in alliance with Dr Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC and the European Parliament, has lately exhorted the citizens of the world to veg it up under the slogan "Less Meat = Less Heat".

Eating less meat is "as obvious as recycling or hybrid cars", McCartney told the EU parliament last December. He urged European lawmakers to "encourage, guide, inform and help people in making a relatively easy decision," and hoped that people would think of the children.

"It can be done and it should be done for our children who will inherit this planet," said Sir Paul.

But there's a big problem here, according to Californian agricultural air-quality boffin Frank Mitloehner. The UN report is based on dodgy numbers. He says that the authors of Livestock's Long Shadow calculated the livestock emissions including everything they could think of - those resulting from growing feeds, from animals' burping and farting, from the various industrial processes involved in producing and delivering meat and dairy products.

By contrast, when assessing transport they included only the greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels burned while driving, making no allowance for the huge carbon-equivalences involved in building and maintaining roads, railways, cars, trains, planes and automobiles.

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