Monday, September 08, 2014

Fun! Could a healthy diet speed up global warming? Eating according to US government guidelines would raise greenhouse gas emissions, claims study

Altering what we eat to conform to dietary guidelines would actually increase emissions of greenhouse gases, a study has found.  The researchers found that diet-related greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 12 per cent if dietary recommendations are followed.

And while the scientists aren't suggesting we should ignore dietary guidelines, they are suggesting that such guidelines should be made with more environmental considerations in mind.

Dr Martin Heller and Dr Gregory Keoleian of the University of Michigan's Center for Sustainable Systems looked at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of around 100 foods.

They also looked at the potential effects of shifting Americans to a diet recommended by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

They found that if Americans adopted the recommendations in USDA's 'Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010,' but consumed the same number of calories diet-related greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 12 per cent.

Current estimates put the average American's daily calories intake at more than 3,300 calories a day.

If Americans reduced their daily caloric intake to the recommended level of about 2,000 calories while shifting to a healthier diet, meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by only 1 per cent according to Dr Heller and Dr Keoleian.

'The take-home message is that health and environmental agendas are not aligned in the current dietary recommendations,' Dr Heller said.

The paper's findings are especially relevant now because the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is for the first time considering food sustainability within the context of dietary recommendations, he said.

In its 2010 dietary guidelines, the USDA recommends that Americans eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood.

They should consume less salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugar and refined grains.

The guidelines don't explicitly state that Americans should eat less meat. However, an appendix to the report lists the recommended average daily intake amounts of various foods, including meat.

The paper titled 'Greenhouse gas emission estimates of US dietary choices and food loss' was published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

The recommended amount of meat is significantly less than current consumption levels, which Dr Heller and Dr Keoleian estimated using the USDA's Loss Adjusted Food Availability dataset as a proxy for per capita food consumption in the United States.

While a drop in meat consumption would help cut diet-related greenhouse gas emissions, increased use of dairy products - and to a lesser extent seafood, fruits and vegetables - would have the opposite effect, increasing diet-related emissions, according to the researchers.

In the US in 2010, food production was responsible for about eight per cent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

In general, animal-based foods are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions per pound than plant-based foods.

The production of both beef cattle and dairy cows is tied to especially high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

For starters, cows don't efficiently convert plant-based feed into muscle or milk, so they must eat lots of feed.

Growing that feed often involves the use of fertilisers and other substances manufactured through energy-intensive processes. And then there's also the fuel used by farm equipment.

In addition, cows burp lots of methane, and their manure also releases this potent greenhouse gas.

Greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing the US diet are dominated by the meats category, according to Dr Heller and Dr Keoleian.  While beef accounts for only four per cent by weight of the food available, it contributes 36 per cent of the associated greenhouse gases, they conclude.

The researchers found that a switch to diets that don't contain animal products would lead to the biggest reductions in this country's diet-related greenhouse emissions.

But Dr Heller said he's not arguing that everyone should go vegan, and he believes that animals need to be part of a sustainable agricultural system.

However, reduced consumption would have both health and environmental benefits.

In their paper, Dr Heller and Dr Keoleian also looked at wasted food and how it contributes to US greenhouse gas emissions. They concluded that annual emissions tied to uneaten food are equivalent to adding 33 million passenger vehicles to the nation's roads.


How Markets and Property Rights Can Protect Nature

It's natural—and wrong—to assume greedy capitalists will run amok and destroy the Earth unless stopped by regulation

John Stossel

Last week I said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has become a monster that does more harm than good. But logical people say, "What else we got?" It's natural to assume greedy capitalists will run amok and destroy the Earth unless stopped by regulation.

These critics don't understand the real power of private ownership, says Terry Anderson of the Property and Environment Research Center. "Long before the EPA was a glint in anyone's eye," said Anderson on my TV show, "property rights were dealing with pollution issues."

The worst pollution often happens on land owned by "the people"—by government. Since no one person derives direct benefit from this property, it's often treated carelessly. Some of the worst environmental damage happens on military bases and government research facilities, such as the nuclear research site in Hanford, Washington.

Worse things may happen when government indifference combines with the greed of unrestrained businesspeople, like when the U.S. Forest Service lets logging companies cut trees on public land. Private forest owners are careful to replant and take steps to prevent forest fires. Government-owned forests are not as well managed. They are much more likely to burn.

When it's government land—or any commonly held resource—the incentive is to get in and take what you can, while you can. It's called the "tragedy of the commons."

"No one washes a rental car," says Anderson, but "when people own things, they take care of them. And when they have private property rights that they can enforce, other people can't dump gunk onto the property."

That's why, contrary to what environmentalists often assume, it's really property rights that encourage good stewardship. If you pollute, it's your neighbors who are most likely to complain, not lazy bureaucrats at the EPA.

"Here in Montana, for example, the Anaconda Mining Company, a copper and mining company, ruled the state," says Anderson. "And yet when it was discovered that their tailings piles (the heaps left over after removing the valuable material by mining) had caused pollution on ranches that neighbored them, local property owners took them to court. (Anaconda Mining) had to cease and desist and pay for damages. ... They quickly took care of that problem." They also restored some of the land they had mined.

Property rights and a simple, honest court system—institutions that can exist without big government—solve problems that would be fought about for years by politicians, environmental bureaucrats, and the corporations who lobby them.

In fact, it's harder to assess the benefits and damages in environmental disputes when these decisions are taken out of the marketplace and made by bureaucracies that have few objective ways to measure costs.

Markets even solve environmental problems in places where environmentalists assume they cannot, such as oceans and other property that can't be carved up into private parcels.

Environmental bureaucrats usually say, to make sure fishermen don't overfish and destroy the stock of fish, we will set a quota for every season. That command-and-control approach has been the standard policy. So bureaucrats regulate the fishing season. They limit the number of boats, their size, and how long they may fish.

The result: fishing is now America's most dangerous job. Fishermen race out in all kinds of weather to get as many fish as they can in the narrow time window allowed by regulators. They try to game the system to make more money. Sometimes they still deplete the fish stock.

But Anderson points out that there is an alternative. "In places like New Zealand and Iceland ... we've created individual fishing quotas, which are tradable, which are bankable, which give people an incentive to invest in their fisheries." Because the fisherman "owns" his fishing quota, he is careful to preserve it. He doesn't overfish because he wants "his" fish to be there next year.

The moral of the story: when possible, let markets and property protect nature. That avoids the tragedy of the commons.


Russia Sponsors Leonardo DiCaprio Anti-American Energy Propaganda Video

We’ve written extensively about hypocritical Hollywood environmentalists. The latest comes from Leonardo DiCaprio, who is out with a new fearmongering, anti-oil and gas video that appears to be partially supported by the Russian government.

The video gives production credits to the Russian television network RT America (a.k.a. Russia Today), which receives funding from the Russian government. This isn’t a big surprise. Just like oil-producing countries in the Middle East, Russia has a vested interest in stopping the American energy revolution: Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas. America’s domestic energy boom, made possibly by innovations in hydraulic fracturing, threatens Russia’s grip over European gas markets.

The video was also written and presented by RT on-air personality and self-described “democratic socialist” Thom Hartmann, who recently published the alarmist tome, The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction. And, the credits list contributions to the video from 16 other RT employees, including RT news director Misha Solodovnikov.

This hypocrisy is par for the course for Leo. He’s recently back from his World Cup trip to Rio aboard Emirati Sheik (and oil magnate) Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s superyacht, which best estimates assume has a fuel economy of about 1 mile per gallon. Meanwhile, his video advocates for a carbon tax, portrays the oil and gas industry as a money-eating monster, and claims that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground (evidently, for everyone except for him and his friends.) But accepting resources from a foreign country to advance its fossil fuel interests at the expense of America’s is a new low even for him.


Temperatures have fallen below the lower bound of the projections used by the IPCC

The pause in surface temperature warming has sparked a new phase of research in the climate sciences. Among other effects, it invalidated several high profile forecasts. Some were informal predictions, such as this by Dr David Viner of the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, quoted in The Independent, 20 March 2000:

"{W}ithin a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.”

Or this, more formal, from the NASA press release “Arctic Meltdown", 27 February 2001:

"… in 10 years’ time, if melting patterns change as predicted, the North-West Passage could be open to ordinary shipping for a month each summer. These predictions come in a recently declassified report of a meeting of American, British and Canadian Arctic and naval experts in April last year, organised by Dennis Conlon of the US Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia. Entitled “Naval Operations in an Ice-Free Arctic” …

Peter Wadhams of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge agrees that the Arctic could soon open up. “Within a decade we can expect regular summer trade there,” he predicts."

Some projections are both formal and important. The flattish trend of global surface temperatures during the pause has fallen below the lower bound of the projections used by the IPCC (strictly speaking, not predictions).  See the below updated version of Figure 10.1 from the IPCCC’s AR5 WGI from “Contribution of natural decadal variability to global warming acceleration and hiatus“, Masahiro Watanabe et al, Nature Climate Change, in press. The grey shaded area shows projections from CMIP5 (a set of model outputs from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, used in the IPCC’s AR5). The black line is actual global surface temperature (from the UK’s HadCRUT data).

It’s a small gap, but might grow to become serious if the pause lasts for years — or even decades (as some forecast). The pause gives us some time to prepare for future climate change — and take measures to reduce it. But we might squander this gift of time. Much depends on the possible political effects of the pause in global warming,

Other effects of the pause

Events prove some scientists right, and some wrong. Sometimes the right ones were in the minority. For example the eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr (see Wikipedia) has long said that the focus on the surface air temperature was inappropriate. For example:

“The spatial pattern of ocean heat content change is the appropriate metric to assess climate system heat changes including global warming.”

For this he was smeared and called a denier by activists. Such as those at Skeptical Science (more accurately called “skeptical of science”). See this page calling him a “climate misinformer” (note that all of Pielke’s quotes shown there now appear correct). See this note for more detail and references to his work.

Now the oceans’ role have become a central focus of current research and is one of the leading explanations for the pause (see section 7 here). This rise and fall of reputations is part of the drama of science, concealed by activists who choose their heroes and villains by their political utility.

More HERE  (See the original for links)


James Delingpole

Professor Brian Cox is almost certainly the prettiest physicist ever to have appeared on television. A crowded field, I know. But even I would, I suspect, happily married man though I am (and happily married man though he is too), given the right circumstances: those wonderful pouty lips; that winning perma-smile as he delivers his pearls of astronomical wisdom on his charming documentaries; the rock star cool - complete with Charlatans-style, retro haircut - a legacy of his days as keyboard player with Nineties pop band D:Ream.

So yes, I perfectly well understand why the BBC has elevated him to the position of go-to scientist on all matters of import, with TV series like The Wonders of the Solar System, and why he is constantly being invited to deliver TED talks and high profile speeches like the 2010 Huw Wheldon Memorial Lecture and the Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture.

The only bit that troubles me - and it is something of a problem, I think you'll agree, in a leading "science communicator" - is his somewhat uncertain grasp of the scientific method. (H/T Bishop Hill)

Here is the lovely lad telling Guardian readers what to think about climate science: "What I think about climate change actually is it’s obviously true and clearly true to all of us who look at the debate that goes on."

OK. Fair enough, O Guru. Pray tell us what it is that gives you the adamantine certainty that enables you to make such ex cathedra pronouncements.

"You’re allowed to say, well I think we should do nothing. That’s a policy choice. But what you’re not allowed to do is to claim there’s a better estimate of the way that the climate will change, other than the one that comes out of the computer models. It’s nonsensical to say ‘we know better’, you can’t know better."

Hmm. I detect a flaw here. Don't you? What Professor Cox appears to think is that all those myriad computer projections over the last few decades warning us of catastrophic, unprecedented, runaway man-made global warming ought to be taken more seriously than the real world data which show no warming since 1997.  Theory, he is saying, should trump reality.

Is this really how science works? I'm not sure that science philosopher Karl Popper would have agreed with him. Popper, I would concede, never had nearly as much street credibility as Brian Cox. Not once was he in any kind of popular dance act and even in his youth his hairstyles and fashion sense were pretty ragged. But he is generally recognised as the man who laid the intellectual foundations of the scientific method when he devised the concept of "falsifiability."

In order for a scientific hypothesis to have any value, Popper posited, it must be falsifiable. That is: capable of being proved wrong through experiment and observation.

The classic example he gave was the proposition "All swans are white." In order to disprove this, all you have to do is find a swan that isn't white - eg those black swans you find in Australia - and the hypothesis has been falsified.

But Professor Cox, it would appear, thinks he knows better than this. Where Anthropogenic Global Warming theory is concerned, scientists have found the black swan: the 17-year hiatus in global warming which has confounded all the theoretical models predicting that as anthropogenic CO2 levels rise so, inexorably, will the world's temperature. Yet what Cox is telling Guardian readers is: "Sod the black swans in Australia. All our models tell us they can't possibly exist because swans are meant to be white, so there."


FURTHERMORE: "Who do you think said the following: “I always regret it when knowledge becomes controversial. It’s clearly a bad thing, for knowledge to be controversial.” A severe man of the cloth, perhaps, keen to erect a forcefield around his way of thinking? A censorious academic rankled when anyone criticises his work?

Actually, it was Brian Cox, Britain’s best-known scientist and the BBC’s go-to guy for wide-eyed documentaries about space. Yes, terrifyingly, this nation’s most recognisable scientist thinks it is a bad thing when knowledge becomes the subject of controversy, which is the opposite of what every man of reason in modern times has said about knowledge.

Brendan O'Neill

Homosexual Canutes

They seem to think they can stop the sea level from rising on a holiday island they frequent

'Queers for the Climate' Are Trying to Save Fire Island from Rising Seas

When it comes to climate change, everyone has something to lose. Californians are losing their water supply, hikers are losing vast swaths of forest, farmers are losing crops. The gay community is losing Fire Island.

That's the subject of a new tongue-in-cheek documentary produced by members of Queers for the Climate, which is pretty much the best new environmental group I've seen emerge in ages.

See, picture an 'environmentalist', and you'll likely whip up a caricature that looks something like this: A middle-aged straight white man, sporting either a rumpled safari hat and birding binocs or a tie-dyed tee and a tangled beard. That's a problem, since there's a whiff of truth to every stereotype, and while the American green movement is diversifying, it's still a pretty homogenous lot.

So when I got an email from a member of Queers for the Climate, my cynical brain perked right up. Joseph Huff-Hannon told me that the group is a newly formed coalition of LGBT activists who care about climate change, and who want to make environmental protests look more like Pride parades.

Huff-Hannon teamed up with the Yes Men's Andy Bichlbaum to make a documentary short about their trip to Fire Island, on which they tried to recruit gay men to the climate cause. Fire Island, they point out, is one of the East Coast's most endangered beaches—a recent report found it had a high likelihood of being swallowed by sea level rise. Queers for Climate members have also launched an #ItGetsWetter parody campaign, and are raising interest in the upcoming People's Climate March in New York City....

But I do think in general, even with Hurricane Sandy in NYC, even with major American cities like Miami literally already starting to slowly drown, most of us are conditioned to think about climate change as something happening “over there” or “out there.” But actually Fire Island homeowners (and visitors) have just as much stake as somebody living on the Maldives to try to help get ourselves out of this mess.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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