Shun meat, says UN climate chief

By, Richard Black, BBC News, September 7, 2008

People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming, says the UN’s top climate scientist.

Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will make the call at a speech in London on Monday evening.

UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.

But a spokeswoman for the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said methane emissions from farms were declining.

Dr Pachauri has just been re-appointed for a second six-year term as chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC, the body that collates and evaluates climate data for the world’s governments.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” he told BBC News.

“So I want to highlight the fact that among options for mitigating climate change, changing diets is something one should consider.”

Climate of persuasion

The FAO figure of 18% includes greenhouse gases released in every part of the meat production cycle – clearing forested land, making and transporting fertiliser, burning fossil fuels in farm vehicles, and the front and rear end emissions of cattle and sheep.

The contributions of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – are roughly equivalent, the FAO calculates.

Transport, by contrast, accounts for just 13% of humankind’s greenhouse gas footprint, according to the IPCC.

Dr Pachauri will be speaking at a meeting organised by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), whose main reason for suggesting people lower their consumption of meat is to reduce the number of animals in factory farms.

CIWF’s ambassador Joyce D’Silva said that thinking about climate change could spur people to change their habits.

“The climate change angle could be quite persuasive,” she said.

“Surveys show people are anxious about their personal carbon footprints and cutting back on car journeys and so on; but they may not realise that changing what’s on their plate could have an even bigger effect.”

Side benefits

There are various possibilities for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming animals.

They range from scientific approaches, such as genetically engineering strains of cattle that produce less methane flatus, to reducing the amount of transport involved through eating locally reared animals.

“The NFU is committed to ensuring farming is part of the solution to climate change, rather than being part of the problem,” an NFU spokeswoman told BBC News.

“We strongly support research aimed at reducing methane emissions from livestock farming by, for example, changing diets and using anaerobic digestion.”

Methane emissions from UK farms have fallen by 13% since 1990.

But the biggest source globally of carbon dioxide from meat production is land clearance, particularly of tropical forest, which is set to continue as long as demand for meat rises.

Ms D’Silva believes that governments negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol ought to take these factors into account.

“I would like governments to set targets for reduction in meat production and consumption,” she said.

“That’s something that should probably happen at a global level as part of a negotiated climate change treaty, and it would be done fairly, so that people with little meat at the moment such as in sub-Saharan Africa would be able to eat more, and we in the west would eat less.”

Dr Pachauri, however, sees it more as an issue of personal choice.

“I’m not in favour of mandating things like this, but if there were a (global) price on carbon perhaps the price of meat would go up and people would eat less,” he said.

“But if we’re honest, less meat is also good for the health, and would also at the same time reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”


Sound file: The sounds of Thailand

[audio:|titles=Sound file 07: The sounds of Thailand|artists=Earthoria]
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Yesterday I finally got around to editing together some of the random audio snippets I have had on my computer since I left Thailand. This sound compilation contains radio clips, sounds recorded in our street, animal noises, music recorded at our local temple and lots more.

The final song, although not Thai, was ubiquitous in Thailand for the first two years I lived there. It will also conjure up a few memories for a some special friends. You know who you are ;-).

Girls on a parade in Sukhothai, Thailand for Loi Krathong

Video: Copenhagen Pride 2008

This video shows the amazing Pride parade in Copenhagen. The parade took place today.

Copenhagen pride is a yearly returning event and it is definitely a worthwhile experience to watch or participate as you wish.

The event is basically celebrating the rights and freedom of homosexuals and this year’s theme was “We celebrate because we can!”. And there is a lot to be said for that. In many countries around the world, homosexuality is not only frowned upon – it is punished with jail (like in India) or simply beating up by narrow-minded citizens who face no charges for their doing.

In Denmark we were so fortunate to be the first country in the world to allow for gay marriages. It became legal in 1989 when the gay couples could finally tie the knot as well with their loved one.

Copenhagen Pride is a celebration of love and a recognition that love comes in many shapes and sizes and it is not for other people to judge how we love or who we love. We should all be free to love the one we want.

So go out and do it.

Podcast: Spain celebrates beating Germany!

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This podcast is a bit of a departure from the usual in more senses than one. Firstly, it’s from Spain and secondly it’s not about enemas, or massages… it’s about ‘the beautiful game’ – football. It features the sounds of the Spanish celebrating their Euro 2008 win in Vejer de la Frontera, a small town in Andalucia in Southern Spain.

New Earthoria website design

Welcome to our new look website! I’ve been buried in CSS Style sheets and the WordPress system for a couple of days now and have finally reached the point I feel relatively happy putting the new template live. Having had our previous layout for a whole year, we decided it was time for a change.

The intention was to make the site look a little more professional whilst keeping a clean & uncluttered look, and at the same time keep one eye on improving its search engine positioning.

We hope the new website will stand us in good stead to publish lots of new photos, podcasts, videos etc on our impending trip to Latin America.

Port Meadow, Oxford

Thanks to some wonderfully sunny July weather in England, Tina and I ventured out for a walk by the river at Port Meadow in Oxford – a large area of common land to the north and west of Oxford, England.

Port Meadow, Oxford

The meadow is an ancient area of grazing land, still used for horses and cattle, and has never been ploughed. In return for helping to defend the kingdom against Tina’s marauding Danish ancestors, the Freemen of Oxford were given the pasture next to the Thames by King Alfred who founded the City in the 10th Century. The Freemen’s collective right to graze their animals free of charge was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 and has been exercised ever since.

It’s a great spot to go for a walk or just sit by the river and watch the boats cruising past to the soundtrack of cackling geese.

Vejer, Spain

Shameless plug: Rent a beautiful house in Vejer de la frontera! You can also see 2009’s post on Vejer de La Frontera here.

I cushioned my re-entry from Thailand to the UK with a month in Spain. Beginning with a few days catching up with friends in Barcelona, Tina and I made our way down to Andalucia – flying to Jerez near Cadiz – then staying in a small town called Vejer De La Frontera.

Vejer de la Frontera - Jewish Quarter

Perched on a sizeable rocky plateau about 7 miles inland from Cape Trafalgar on the Costa de la Luz in Spain lies the medieval town of Vejer de la Frontera. The Costa de la Luz is a section of the Andalusian coast facing the Atlantic Ocean, extending from Tarifa, at the southernmost tip of Spain, north and northwestward, along the coasts of Cádiz and Huelva provinces, to the mouth of the Guadiana River.

With stunning views of the surrounding countryside – and all the way to Morocco in the background – it is hard to recall a more strikingly located town.

Vejer has been granted the status of Area of Historic and Artistic Interest and has also won the Most Beautiful Towns of Spain award. Vejer contains several ancient churches and convents, and the architecture of many of its houses recalls the period of Moorish rule, which lasted from 711 until the town was re-captured by the Spanish in 1248. Fighting bulls are bred in the neighborhood and a running of the bulls is held annually.

Cape Trafalgar (Cabo de Trafalgar) is perhaps better known as the location of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 where the British fleet, commanded by Admiral Nelson put paid to the combined French and Spanish fleets, and died in the process.

Losing yourself in the maze of narrow, cobbled streets of Vejer feels a bit like stepping back hundreds of years in time. The locals are wonderfully friendly and put up with my Thai/Spanish/English language mixture. The coastline of the Costa de la Luz is undeveloped, unspoilt and extremely beautiful – with wide, never-ending windswept beaches. Could this be our next destination?!

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