Beef with Climate Change?

As the world seemingly continues to hurtle towards oblivion at pace and the amount of organisations, Governments, pressure groups, entrepreneurs, President elects, believers and non-believers share views and opinion on the climate change latest, it can seem to the everyday citizen to be a problem so big and so frightening, there is nothing we can actually do to help. 

If some of the brightest and most powerful minds on the planet can’t come together to save humanity as we know it, what exactly can the little man do about it? Well, the answer is a lot and it could start with something as a simple review of our diet.

On the face of it, the suggestion that cows could be a significant cause of climate change, sounds fanciful. Surely it’s the cars, vans and trucks that drive past their fields on the M25 or the planes that fly over them that do the real damage? What’s the poor old cow, idly grazing away on a summer’s day got to do with any of this?

Methane is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide (CO2), but the negative effect on the climate of Methane is 23 times higher than that of CO2 and on average, a cow releases between 70 and 120kg of Methane per year (in a few ways we won’t spend time elaborating on). So, the release of about 100kg of Methane per year (for each cow) is equivalent to around 2,300kg of CO2.

Numbers mean very little without some context, so it’s mind boggling to think that the same amount of CO2 is generated  by one cow per year as the amount generated by burning 1,000 litres of petrol and with a car using eight litres of petrol per 100km, you could drive 12,500km per year (7,800 miles). In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide – more than the whole of the transportation sector.

Speaking of which, there was some welcome news last month for the U.S. Electric Vehicle (EV) industry with OPEC’s backing for the first output cut in eight years suggesting the two year slide for crude prices might be over, which in turn should have a positive impact on EV demand. In fact, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a quarter of the world’s cars will be electric by 2040 and it’s a trend that the UK market appears to be embracing with approximately 67,000 EVs on UK roads right now – an increase of 5,560% in just over four years.

We realise that a switch to an EV or the installation of a Solar PV system might be part of a slightly longer term plan to live more sustainably, but in the meantime, a look at what ends up on our plates might be the best place to start. As part of their Sustainable St Albans week, Sustainable St Albans suggested that ‘Meat Free Mondays’ would be a good step towards living more sustainably and we agree, but if that’s a step too far for the carnivorous amongst us, maybe we should start with cutting our beef consumption.

There’s plenty of beef in the world right now. Beef with Trump, beef with Brexit, beef with Boris and now beef with the beef in the new £5 notes. We’re not about to suggest saying goodbye to the juicy steak for good, but if we all had less beef on our plates, we may also have less beef with climate change.

Albert Einstein mused: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

He also said that the definition of insanity was: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

One to ponder.