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Save the world with salad

  • 09 December 2011

This week, scientists at the Global Carbon Project announced that 2010 saw global carbon emissions rise by 5.9 per cent. That means that, as delegates enter the 17th year of the UN's climate conference in Durban, South Africa, some 14 years after the Kyoto Protocol, we have just had the worst year of greenhouse gas emissions ever.

Among those with the highest increases were the booming economies of China and India, up by 10.4 and 9.4 per cent respectively.

That's not to say that only developing countries are to blame. Overall global emissions increased because emissions from developed countries did not decrease, despite the West's perceived role as leaders in the fight against climate change. The US led the charge with a four per cent increase from 2009, with emissions from all developed nations increasing by 3.4 per cent.

While the fruits of the Labor Government's carbon price are yet to materialise, they are unlikely, given the rising emissions elsewhere, to do much to stall, let alone reverse global levels.

This is not least because the government exempted some of the worst offenders from the carbon-pricing scheme — animal agriculturists — choosing instead to spend $1.9 billion helping farmers reduce their emissions. Australia is not alone in this arrangement, with other developed nations also sparing the industry from burdens to reduce carbon.

This has to change. Intensive farming is the single biggest contributor to rising carbon levels. Conservative estimates put animal agriculture as responsible for 15–25 per cent of all emissions. This is more than all the world's planes, trains and automobiles combined.

For years we've had advertisements imploring us to reduce our own emissions by switching the power off at the wall, not leaving appliances on standby, taking two minute showers and not driving to work.

Yet the truth is that the best thing each of us can do to stall climate change is to decrease our consumption of meat and other animal products.

Indeed, last year, the United Nations released a report warning that a gradual shift to a vegetarian or vegan diet is essential if we are to combat the worst effects of climate change. Yet the global demand for meat continues to rise.

It's no surprise that China and India's emissions rose so drastically. In recent years, these countries, with their burgeoning middles classes, have seen demand for meat skyrocket. Both of these countries have adopted the intensive 'factory' farming systems used in