Last month’s Chatham House Report, Changing Climate, Changing Diets Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption, is of increased importance after the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21). With a nearly global agreement that greenhouse gas emissions should peak as soon as possible and then be cut rapidly to a level that can be absorbed by nature, countries are looking to make substantial changes to decrease emissions.
Production of meat and dairy, a resource and energy intensive process is a large contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming, although often overlooked.
The Report concludes that governments must lead actions to reduce meat and dairy consumption because, if left alone, the market will not be effective in driving the desired reduction.
Luckily for governments who have feared significant public backlash, this concern turns out to be largely unfounded. Research suggests that individuals actually expect governments to lead efforts against unsustainable consumption of meat and that government inaction would indicate that it is unimportant. Although taxation will face some backlash, it is expected to be passing and its severity is inversely correlated to consumer awareness about connections between livestock, diet, and climate change.
Public understanding about the role of livestock in climate change is far lower than for comparative emission sources. Livestock and transport each contribute to 14.5% of global GHG emissions but the links between transport and emissions are more readily recognized by the public than those between livestock and emissions.
Image credit: Flickr / North Charleston