Humanity’s Meat and Dairy Intake Must Be Cut in Half by 2050 to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change

Yves here. We’ve been saying for some time that it will become necessary to eat way further down on the food chain. However, sweeping statements like the one at the very end  undermine the credibility of advocates of eating more responsibly. They ignore the fact that low/no animal protein/only grass fed proteins diets are increasingly popular, and that some engage in high carbon footprint activities like regularly flying business class.

By Julie Cappiello, the Global Communications Manager at Mercy for Animals. Originally published at AlterNet

Going vegan will help reduce animal suffering, protect your health and halve your carbon footprint. So what are you waiting for?

In a recent press release on its website, Greenpeace called for a reduction in meat, dairy, and egg consumption. A new report by the organization states that “global meat and dairy production and consumption must be cut in half by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change.” The report also confirms what many health professionals have said for years: Eating meat and dairy raises various health risks, including risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Indeed, calling for such a reduction is vital to the fight against global warming, as animal agriculture is the number-one driver of climate change.

Why are meat, dairy and eggs so harmful to the environment? Every year we raise and kill at least 56 billion land animals for food worldwide. We feed enormous amounts of corn, soy, and wheat to each of them. Much of this animal feed is grown on deforested land whose precious rainforests and wildlife have been wiped out. These animals excrete untold amounts of feces, which pollute local waterways and accelerate climate change by emitting methane into the atmosphere. They must be transported to slaughter and their meat packaged and shipped. The process not only kills billions of animals and inflicts unspeakable cruelty but literally kills our planet.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the livestock sector is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide pollution and the single largest source of methane and nitrous oxide. And according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, carbon dioxide emissions from raising farmed animals make up about 15 percent of global human-induced emissions.

Raising animals for food is also culpable for more than 90 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction and uses more than one-third of the earth’s landmass. More than 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest—and 135 animal, plant, and insect species—are lost to animal agriculture each day.

Animal agriculture also takes a devastating toll on wildlife through habitat loss and hunting. Because it uses such a massive amount of land, wild animals are pushed out of their natural environments or violently killed because they are viewed as a predatory threat to the meat and dairy industries.

The good news? By going vegan you not only help protect animals but cut your carbon footprint in half.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


    1. nycTerrierist

      This is so important.
      For people who must eat ‘meat’ and wear leather — why not give this a chance?
      Personally, I am thrilled to have an alternative to factory farm misery.

  1. Edward E

    Eat like a Native American Indian, that’s about what I do most of the time. Vegetarian is an old Indian word for bad hunter. Surely there were a comparable number of out gassing buffalo, elk, pigs and deer in the old days? In the even older days there were plenty of out gassing mega-fauna eating mega-vegetation and in the really, really older days there were out gassing dinosaurs eating large, lush warm greenery. See, every reset button results in a cooler, less fertile world.

    Now it’s true we need to clean up our act and it is altering the climate some, but the next reset button will arrive eventually. How much of this warming is rebound from the LIA? How warmer was the Medieval Warm Period really? Sometimes the desert plant leftovers do well here, other times the ice age relics have a comeback. The local Indians wore clothing made from desert plants in the MWP. We have very few desert plants now.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Climate change denialism lite and advocating a lifestyle no one can/would live now does not do much for your credibility.

      Humans are omnivores. Eating meat is convenient because you get a lot of calories for the amount of effort expended. That does not amount to proof that it is healthy.

      And meat is higher up the food chain, so toxins are in much higher concentration than if you eat mainly/entirely vegan, a consideration that wasn’t operative 100 years ago. Vegetarians live longer, period. There is a case to be made that vegetarians also have higher marriage rates and other habits that may also contribute to their longevity, but the base case is very much against meat eaters.

      1. Edward E

        Humans are frugivorous, but if you cannot live in the tropics why not eat like the native people from the area did? I actually don’t eat meat very often since this wonderful woman came into my life more than a decade ago. She studied under Dr. Herbert M Shelton and TC Fry with Victoria Bidwell so it’s not like we don’t know anything. She was vegetarian, now she’s Paleo and we get along spectacularly compared to the past when we both were vegetarian. She said Paleo is somewhat like the Native American diet, except for some grains. We do not eat beef.

        “Climate change denialism lite” What changed is the emissions from the industrial revolution to the present day. Animals have always been mostly plentiful is what I’m trying to communicate.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Your assumption about animals is simply wrong. The problem is not that the world is overrun with buffalo and deer, but that it is overrun with artificially high numbers of ruminants in feedlots being fed artificial diets in order to bulk up quickly. And those diets are largely created through the unsustainable use of fossil fuels to either grow crops for their food or to accelerate grass growth unnaturally though nitrogen application.

          And incidentally, nearly all anthropological research on Native Americans is that outside the colder zones they mostly did eat vegetable protein, mostly grains and tubers. The ceremonial importance Native Americans gave to meat actually shows what an occasional treat it was for them. It was the hunting tribes of the margins who survived colonialism longest, giving a distorted view of the lifestyle of most of the original population.

          1. David

            nearly all anthropological research on Native Americans is that outside the colder zones they mostly did eat vegetable protein, mostly grains and tubers.

            Not really.

            The basis of the Indian diet was guts and grease, not waffles and skimmed milk…Ruminant animals, such as moose, elk, caribou, deer, antelope and, of course, buffalo were the mainstay of the Amerindian diet, just as beef is the mainstay of the modern American diet. The difference is that the whole animal was eaten, not just the muscle meats

            …Modern man has lost his taste for the kinds of foods the Indians ate—how many American children will eat raw liver, dried lung or sour porridge?

            Sacred Foods

            All of the foods considered important for reproduction and all of the foods considered sacred were animal foods, rich in fat…Bear was also considered an important food for reproduction.

            Plant Diets didn’t work for the Natives either.

            But when the proportion of corn in the diet became too high, as happened in the American Southwest, the health of the people suffered. Skeletal remains of groups subsisting largely on corn reveal widespread tooth decay and bone problems.

            1. Wukchumni

              It really depends on where the indians were located as far as diet goes.

              Acorns were 2/3rds of the diet here for the Wukchumni for thousands of years, along with just about every other tribe in the Sierra foothills, and one interesting thing about the clans here, is they they weren’t warlike compared to other indians back east, although that other 1/3rd of their diet tended to be fish or meat based.

              There are probably in excess of 1,000 mortars sunk into granite here, where the indians ground acorns. Those holes will be here for time immemorial.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                If the oak trees are still there and still producing crops of acorns, then the present day Californians of your area could begin gathering acorns and using these legacy Indian mortarholes sunk into the granite. Acorns could again become a staple food for people in the Acorn Belt of California.

                1. Wukchumni

                  The blue oaks leafed out only about 10 days ago, although acorns from the higher elevation black oak were the most prized, in terms of eating.

                  Anything is possible in our unpredictable future, but having tasted acorn gruel, it’s way down on the list of things i’d want to consume.

                  1. drumlin woodchuckles

                    Acorn gruel . . . well now I’m curious to taste some. Though not motivated enough to make my own.

                    Still, a reason for learning how to process acorns into food out there in the Acorn Belt might be that in case you have to do so in the future, you will already know how.

                    One wonders, do any of today’s California Indians remember how to make acorn flour/meal taste good? Here’s a few acorn recipes from on line.

                    And here’s a few more.

                    1. Wukchumni

                      ROM AMERICA [ 1 Pound ] Acorn Starch Powder Flour 도토리

                      Available on Amazon for $13.

                      Usually acorn eaters were pretty low on the food eating hierarchy, and Korea was dirt poor once upon a time, thus, that’s the place to get acorn flour.

                    2. drumlin woodchuckles

                      Maybe I can find acorn meal in an East Asian food store without having to deal with Amazon.

                      If acorn meal was the lowest class food for the dirt-poorest, maybe that says something about its reliability and resilience-attributes right there. The challenge would be to make it taste good.

                      Here is a nursery selling what it claims to be low-tannic-acid edible-acorns-with-minimal-treatment oaks, called Oikos Nursery. It is midwest-northeast centered so I don’t know how these oaks would do in California without the winter they are used to. But it shows that people have been working on the problem

        2. Paul Lebow

          You are just factually incorrect. Animal respiration is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions but even more significant is the amount of grain grown to feed these animals. Animal agriculture takes up an amazing 30% of the earth’s land mass. Do you think this insignificant? The transportation and refrigeration needed to store decaying meat for human consumption is something that environmental analysts take into account as well.

          The rapidly mounting scientific evidence on the health threat of eating animal products flies in the face of your simplistic justifications.

          And, by the way, anyone who refers to themselves as a passionate progressive can hardly say that with a straight face as they participate in the mass slaughter and violence of animal use and exploitation. Its no coincidence that a mainstay of genocidal propaganda is the referring to oppressed segments of a population as “animals”. Its hypocritical to claim to be non-violent when one bases their eating habits on grotesque violence three times a day – a life of cognitive dissonance.

          1. cocomaan

            Eh, there’s plenty of hypocrisy around. I know lots of vegans and vegetarians that own cats and feed the cats meat, not to mention send the cats outside where they participate in slaughter of native bird species.

            At least people eating meat are getting sustenance. Pets are just fluff.

            We’d do better to get off our high horses about diet and start figuring out ways to give people access to better food options, not chastize them as “genocidal” “grotesque” and tell them they suffer from “cognitive dissonance”.

            1. readerOfTeaLeaves

              Also, some Public Utility Districts (PUD’s), which have been able to invest in new energy technologies, including methane digesters that use animal waste for powering heat and lights.

              I almost hate to link to EPA, as who knows what will become a target of the Trumpians next. But if they screw dairy farmers and people don’t get their morning lattes, or their yoghurt, we really *might* actually have a revolution:

              1. cocomaan

                Love the idea of the digester. There’s plenty of creative methods for dealing with the current food system. But the incentives are all in the wrong direction.

                Unfortunately, this is really a product of the great depression and WW2, when rationing was the norm. People were scarred from that. So what happened? An overabundance of food, squeezing every last calorie out of every last inch of land.

            2. Paul Lebow

              Hope I didn’t make you too uncomfortable :-)
              Yes, a vegan that buys a pure bred, non-rescue animal is morally inconsistent. There are exceptions.
              There is vegan food for dogs AND cats. But we encouraged domestic animal breeding and to deprive those animals of their genetically required food is not justifiable.
              Do you need animal products for sustenance? What’s your reason – other than it gives you pleasure?
              So you think believing killing animals for our pleasure is morally unjustifiable is getting on a “high horse”?

      2. kimyo

        Vegetarians live longer, period

        in terms of women, the adventist health study 2 shows that fish eaters have the highest longevity (0.88 all cause mortality where non-vegetarians are 1.00). ‘semi-vegetarians’ (0.92) and ‘lacto-ovo’ (0.94) show increased longevity. but vegans come in at 0.97, the worst of the vegetarian group.

        the study followed 48,000 women for roughly 5 years.

        1. Scott

          I read a similar study years ago (it might have been the same one), but I seem to remember the authors explicitly stating that there is no proof that there is a causal relationship and that there might be something else that caused both.

        2. Dirk77

          The ability to live well as a vegetarian may have to do partly at the age in which you become one? Or it could be that some people/sexes are better adapted than others. As I’ve mentioned before, if you are an Eskimo, doesn’t it seem possible that your body is optimized for sea mammals? Natural selection and all? Or I’d like to see studies showing that people are really more flexible than I think. It’s possible that there is a period of adjustment and that period becomes longer the older you are. So many people who tried vegan and gave up because their hair started to fall out, would have eventually succeeded had they persisted – and not died trying.

          I’d love to be a vegan, and envy those who are, but still.

        3. Paul Lebow

          Read the latest Adventist studies. Healthy vegans significantly outlive non-vegans. It is easy to follow a poor vegan diet, high in refined carbohydrates. In addition, it was found that the key factor not controlled in these old studies was vitamin B12 intake. Vegans who supplement far outlive non-vegans.

          1. kimyo

            i was quoting from the latest adventist study.

            vegan women fare worse than ‘semi-‘/’ovo-lacto’/’pesce’-vegetarians and only slightly better than meat eaters in terms of longevity.

            vegan women have a significantly worse results in terms of heart disease (1.39 ischemic / 1.18 cvd compared to 1.00 for meat eaters.

            the study can be found here. the data i’ve quoted is on page 17.

            do you have a link on your claim that ‘vegans who supplement far outlive non-vegans’?

            1. Paul Lebow

              You cherry-picked the study you referenced. I can do that too:

              ” The adjusted HR for all-cause mortality in vegans was 0.85 (95% CI, 0.73–1.01); in lacto-ovo–vegetarians, 0.91 (95% CI, 0.82–1.00); in pesco-vegetarians, 0.81 (95% CI, 0.69–0.94); and in semi-vegetarians, 0.92 (95% CI, 0.75–1.13) compared with nonvegetarians. ”

              Assuming you are honestly interested – below is the simplified summary table found in:

              (I removed statistical info for clarity)

              TABLE 3
              Summary of the association of vegetarian dietary patterns with selected health outcomes in the Adventist Health Study 2
              Dietary pattern
              Health Outcome1
              Vegan/Lactoovovegetarian/ Pescovegetarian /Semivegetarian /Nonvegetarian
              Cross-sectional findings
               BMI2 (4) (kg/m2)
              23.6 / 25.7 / 26.3 / 27.3 / 28.8
              0.51 / 0.54 /0.70 /0.76 / Referent
              Prevalence (%)
              2.9 / 3.2 / 4.8 / 6.1 / 7.6
              0.37 / 0.57 / 0.92 /0.92 / Referent
              0.56 / 0.94 /0.94 /Not reported /Referent
              Metabolic syndrome [OR (95% CI)]
              0.44 /0.44 /Not reported / Not reported/ Referent
              Prevalence (%)
              25.2/25.2 /37.6/37.6/ 39.7
              Prospective findings
              0.38 / 0.62 /0.79 /0.49 / Referent

              Incident cases (%) 0.54 /1.08/ 1.29/ 0.92/ 2.12
              All cancers 0.84 / 0.93 / 0.88 / 0.98 / Referent
              All-cause mortality 0.85/0.91/0.81 /0.92 / Referent

        4. Croatoan

          A self reported study of 200K Australians in 2017 found no link to changes in mortality. I do not think that vegetarianism is not suitable for some people at some times, but the evidence from this and other studies show that vegetarianism is not a panacea for human health.

          Among 243,096 participants (mean age: 62.3 years, 46.7% men) there were 16,836 deaths over a mean 6.1 years of follow-up. Following extensive adjustment for potential confounding factors there was no significant difference in all-cause mortality for vegetarians versus non-vegetarians [HR = 1.16 (95% CI 0.93–1.45)]. There was also no significant difference in mortality risk between pesco-vegetarians [HR = 0.79 (95% CI 0.59–1.06)] or semi-vegetarians [HR = 1.12 (95% CI 0.96–1.31)] versus regular meat eaters. We found no evidence that following a vegetarian diet, semi-vegetarian diet or a pesco-vegetarian diet has an independent protective effect on all-cause mortality.

        5. jrs

          Really if I was convinced I had to do my part to cut humanities meat and dairy intake in half I’d just do veganism every other day and be done with it and enjoy some flesh and dairy on the other days (I do make some attempt to limit RED meat for health reasons anyway). If that’s not enough, eh at least I didn’t reproduce so I’ll call it a day, since overpopulation is a large part of this.

          1. Paul Lebow

            Whatever rationalization you choose. We don’t like to hear bad news about our bad habits.

      3. Croatoan

        (Prefacing this after I write it to qualify that when I say “you” I am not talking to anyone specific.)

        Anytime someone says “Humans are…” it makes me cringe. The only thing humans are is diverse. The genetic differences between the Inuit and southern Europeans exist for a reason; they were shaped by the environment and the food they ate. Environment changes epigenetic and that changes genetics.

        To force all of humanity to become vegan or even vegetarian is to deny human genetic variation and will endanger health outcomes for the subpopulations that cannot eat vegan.

        Take the disease called Sitosterolemia. It is caused by changes in a gene called ABCG5 and ABCG8 (sterol transporter) that result in plant sterols to building up in the body and causing, among other things, high cholesterol and early heart disease. Yes, the same plant sterols that they tell people to eat to lower cholesterol actually raises cholesterol in these people. Slight changes in these genes can also cause hyperlipidemia and gallstones.

        I have some of these genes (ABCG8), and I had xanthomas removed from my eyelids as a child. When I eat high sterol foods my cholesterol shoots up. When I was a vegan for three years and vegetarian for 7 I was sick. I also have the genes that process PUFAs just like the Inuit and most hunter-gatherers. I do not turn short chain PUFA into long chain PUFA very well so I need to get my long chain PUFAs from animals.

        So to tell me to be a vegan or vegetarian is telling me to get sick and die.

        How about this; stop eating so much and stop having a hundred kids, stop driving and flying, stop over heating and cooling your house, and buy only the house you need. And just stop buying. Do all that before you tell me to be vegan. I do more to ofset what little meat I eat that 95% of the vegans I meet have nor right to tell me to do it for the climate.

        Should most people eat less meat and more plants? Yes. But should all of us? no.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          All good suggestions.

          And if you’re a meat, egg or cheese eater, grow your own. Chickens and goats in every back yard! Let them compost your organic food waste. Your garden will love the manure.

        2. Paul Lebow

          Oh, please! You are are a complete outlier with an extremely rare genetic mutation. No consistent vegan would deny someone’s right to self defense. But that is no reason to kill an animal – drink your cow’s milk, eat your eggs.

          1. Croatoan

            I was vegan and vegetarian for over 10 years. My health suffered. I eat a small amount of fish and meat. I am healthier. (I cannot drink milk because I am lactose intolerant and eggs do not make me feel well).

            If I am an outlier, just respect that. I did not ask to be born from a long line of hunetr-gatherers.

            And as a Doaist I find your morals amusing. They are purely a human construct.

      4. cocomaan

        That does not amount to proof that it is healthy.

        I think this is a little simplistic. There are areas where vegetarians simply cannot make up the difference. One of those areas is iron. There is almost no way for a vegetarian to get an adequate amount of iron.

        I’m speaking as someone who was vegetarian most of his life and only started eating meat recently.

          1. cocomaan

            Iron skillet cooking helps, but it’s not enough. You’d need to cook all your meals on the skillet to get to the minimum dose, and that would only be if you’re cooking acidic foods that tend to absorb the iron more readily.

            If your diet requires that you take supplements, that means it’s missing something healthy.

            Out of curiosity, I looked up iron supplementation. Unfortunately, it’s fraught with some problems. Some people have an inability to take excess iron. It also interacts with a lot of drugs and thyroid issues.

            Fortunately or unfortunately, humans are geared toward eating a certain amount of meat. Personally, I find joy in having livestock and hunting, so it’s fortunate to me that I have this relationship with the rest of the biota.

          2. Croatoan

            Supplemental heme Iron is made from animals.

            Besides, taking a nutrient out of its contexts might cause you to miss other nutrients that are biologically linked.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, it depends on what brand you take. I’ve not eaten meat for decades, have taken New Chapter vitamins, which are 100% vegetarian, and have always had normal red blood count. And as you should know, women need more iron than men.

              1. Dirk77

                I realize your experiences are as valid as the next person, but I’d be wary of generalizing to the population at large. Its practically a rite of passage for women to try vegetarianism during college. Yet I know many who did not persist for very long (thus my comment above about hair falling out). I also don’t hear anyone claiming of allergies to chicken and beef, yet a ton to elements in a vegetarian diet. Yet I know three brothers who can go vegetarian whenever they want and not be phased at all. Etc., etc. I just don’t think the science of nutrition is advanced enough to make any but the most well grounded of claims, like your vit-B and balancing one’s intake of fats. By the way, I took New Chapter for years but w/o the iron. I tried the one with iron for a lark once. It made me depressed so I cut it out. I subsequently read that one’s body has a hard time flushing out non-heme iron. Not necessarily proven causation but still.

        1. eduardo

          It is commonly thought that those who eat plant-based diets may be more prone to iron deficiency, but it turns out that they’re no more likely to suffer from iron deficiency anemia than anybody else. This may be because not only do those eating meat-free diets tend to get more fiber, and magnesium, and vitamins like A, C, and E; they also get more iron. But the iron found in plants is non-heme iron. Those eating meat-free diets don’t get any of the heme iron found in blood and muscle, which may be a good thing. The avoidance of heme iron may be one of the key elements of plant-based protection against metabolic syndrome, and may also be beneficial in lowering heart disease risk.

        2. Paul Lebow

          That is completely false. And the type of Iron from meat, heme-Iron, is dangerously over-absorbed. Listen to Popeye.

  2. J Sterling

    Why should we cut down on consumption when all the poverty fetishists will do with the slack is use it to have moar babees?

    I don’t believe humans should be poorer and more numerous, I believe we should be fewer and more prosperous.

    1. paul

      More children in an environment that denies self sufficiency is a a very rational,individual choice.

      Susan George pointed this out a very long time ago.

      And, I always say, if you want fewer, you first.

        1. hunkerdown

          The biological clock is a social construct. I’m childfree and proud of it. Your turn.

            1. cocomaan

              Here too.

              The food supply issues are because we have to feed a highly specialized civilization that’s specialized because there’s so many goddamn people in it and it’s therefore fragile.

              You could probably offset your meat and dairy intake by investing in cheap birth control methods and sending crates off to communities with high birth rates.

      1. JohnnyGL

        “More children in an environment that denies self sufficiency is a a very rational,individual choice.”

        I suspect what you say is true, but your link didn’t evidence the statement.

        1. paul

          Have a read of ‘how the other half dies’ if you require further evidence.

          Raiding life expectancies is the root of our problems, raising them seems to be the solution.

      2. Felix_47

        She says that the south (subsaharan Africa etc.) is sending 200 billion dollars per year north in interest payments on debt etc. I don’t see how an exploding population helps that unless you are considering the impact of future transfer payments when the excess population reaches Germany or Sweden.

    2. pretzelattack

      we should cut down on consumption because it is changing the climate very quickly to a state we are going to have difficulty dealing with.
      what is a “poverty fetishist”?

    3. Tony Wright

      Hear, hear. The fundamental problem is too many people. Unless that issue is addressed and the overpopulaters ( i.e. Women who have more than two children, and in some cases the men that coerce them to, usually for religiously chauvinistic reasons), are called out and treated as the ecological vandals that they are ,the planet is doomed. Except for maybe rats, cockroaches and the like.
      I agree that feedlot raised animals are both bad for the planet and for health. That is why we live on a “hobby farm” with a few goats for meat, milk and cheese, and kill one yearling, grass fed bovine a year.
      Having to look your food in the eye before you kill it , thank it for its life, and then kill and butcher it certainly improves your appreciation of the meat you eat, and you sure as hell dont waste anything. Unlike most who buy prepackaged, grainfed prime cuts in the supermarket and have little if any thought for their providence.
      And if you dont have space to grow goats or sheep for meat, what about rabbits , or cuy as in Peru?

  3. pohzzer

    Utterly unrealistic. We are IN abrupt climate change. Armageddonish is not too strong a term for what will be happening by 2030.

    1. Isotope_C14

      Indeed. 2030 may be a little too optimistic even, if the blue arctic ocean event occurs this year, the northern hemispheric air conditioner is gone. Have fun trying to grow corn when there is a two week period of 110+ temps.

      I tell people how dire that situation is, and they ignore me.

      As it is snowing, again in Berlin, and I’m told that doesn’t happen here at the end of March…

      1. pohzzer

        Or growing rice with no monsoon. Or growing sugar beets. I live in the Red River Valley in North Dakota where the majority of sugar beets in the U.S. are grown. During harvest the vast majority of the beets are stored in long wide piles at dozens of sites which then freeze and are loaded into trucks and hauled to the sugar plant throughout the winter. The longer it takes to freeze the more spoilage occurs inside the piles. The countdown for the demise of that crop has started. I’ve talked to sugar beet farmers, categorical denial rules the day. But that’s broadly true across society when it comes to ‘inconvenient’ facts. So it goes.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Where’s the climate model that suggests no monsoon? There may be greater volatility and amplitude, but I suspect the monsoon isn’t going to stop.

          1. pohzzer

            Monsoons are powered by the jet stream changing latitude in the summer, which in turn is driven by the polar/tropical temperature gradient. As the arctic ocean goes summertime ice free and substantially heats up the temperature gradient decreases the jet stream driving the monsoons weakens AND shifts in latitude. Hence the southeast asia monsoon ceases.

    2. paul

      Please explain what will be happening by 2030.
      The winter I was born, snow covered the land for 45 days, at the most 7 this year and the hysteria (archaic term, I know) was hysterical (archaic term, I know) .
      Not much was done afterward
      We are now in the position to learn nothing and remember nothing.

      1. pohzzer

        By 2030 global temperature rise will be over 10 degrees F. With the arctic ice free for most of the year the Greenland ice sheet will be in catastrophic meltdown with the western antarctic ice sheet ramping up to the same. Climate patterns worldwide will be radically shifting with widespread crop failures and food shortages the new norm, and steadily worsening. Political, financial and cultural systems worldwide will be in deep emergency mode with no relief in sight. There are some 700 reactor and spent fuel storage sites across the world that require continual maintenance and cooling to keep from going into catastrophic meltdown. What happens at those sites as ever widening famines, rioting, civil warfare, general warfare, infrastructure breakdowns and general chaos spreads across the world?

        Runaway global warming means mans inputs no longer determine the outcome as vast natural stores of surface and near surface carbon and methane stores are released into the atmosphere in positive feedback loops.

        And so on. You get the idea.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Climate Change is a real problem….

          Turning it into some kind of cartoonish version as seen in the movie “the Day After Tomorrow” when there’s no evidence to support what you’re saying is hugely unhelpful and makes you look foolish.

          10 degrees F is something like 5 degrees C in barely more than 10 years? I don’t think there’s any climate model that suggests that. Please enlighten me if I’m wrong.

          1. Tobin Paz

            Observations are proving that most models are too conservative. If my memory serves me right, the IPCC didn’t take into account a melting Arctic or the release of Arctic methane. Compounding the problem further, there is a multi-year lag between data and the IPCC reports since they are based on peer reviewed papers that require time to produce. Throw in politics within the scientific community and things get even more distorted.

            The IPCC reported that the Arctic wouldn’t be ice free until 2050-2100. In reality we are looking at a possible ice free Arctic within this decade. Here is a quick reference to a potential catastrophic global temperature rise scenario:

            Abrupt Warming – How Much And How Fast?

            How fast could such a temperature rise eventuate? As above image also shows, such a rise could take place within a few years. The polynomial trend is based on NASA January 2012-February 2017 anomalies from 1951-1980, adjusted by +0.59°C to cater for the rise from 1750 to 1951-1980. The trend points at a 3°C rise in the course of 2018, which would be devastating. Moreover, the rise doesn’t stop there and the trend points at a 10°C rise as early as the year 2021.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            What is the state-of-knowledge about raising temperatures on the human brain?

            On both the deniers and believers of Global Warming, because unfortunately, heat does not discriminate.

            Will we all be unable, completely or partially, to think, to reason coherently?

    3. PlutoniumKun

      You need to read up on your climate modelling. Yes, we are in the midst of rapid climate change, and yes, the impacts seem to be accelerating. But all the models indicate that rapid reduction in carbon emissions now will mitigate the impacts. We can’t stop climate change, but we still have a choice between serious, bad, catastrophic and armageddon. Simply saying ‘oh, its too late, do what you want’, is not backed by the models, and is the new war cry of the denialists.

      1. pohzzer

        Mankind’s carbon emissions triggered abrupt climate change, but then nature and the laws of physics take over releasing the vast surface and subsurface existing carbon and methane stores in a series of feedback loops out of human control. It’s what abrupt climate change signifies, an exponential feedback driven release of greenhouse gases double, triple or even quadruple the existing atmospheric stores in a matter or years. In the case of the shallow methane clathrate stores in the arctic continental shelves it can happen in a matter of weeks or months.

    4. Michael

      I’m afraid I have to agree with you. What happened at the end of February in the Arctic with a massive melt of the Bering Sea, and the ice pack north of Greenland to Svalbard was so unprecedented, as well as methane levels reaching 3000 ppb, a sea surface temperature anomaly approaching the East Siberian Sea at +16 degees Fahrenheit, (where much of the methane is frozen), and a totally broken jet stream shows we are in a runaway climate situation.

      A blue water event in the Arctic is all too possible this summer. That situation would be a very difficult one from which to recover, given the innate properties of water and ice, the current ocean temperatures, and the climatic inertia not yet realized by the biosphere.

      While I agree we need to take action to reduce our production of green house gases, I’m afraid we are already in deep Kaka.

      Most of the people who actually pay attention to the weather and environment regularly are in a state of mourning over our future. For most of them, it is too unbearable to talk about.

      IMO our only hope at this point is an attempt re-freeze the Arctic, which we currently do not know how to achieve.

      The end may not be nigh, but it is not looking very promising at this point.

      1. pohzzer

        Nice concise overview. What’s you read on the future of nuclear reactors/spent fuel pools?

      2. alan2102

        Is it true that arctic-news.blogspot is edited by Guy McPherson, under some pen-name? McPherson is hardly a credible guy.

        1. Isotope_C14

          Is that an ad hominem attack I see?

          I’m sure that will freeze the arctic.

          Here’s a dandy resource for looking at the current northern ice situation.

          I check it daily. I encourage all of you to as well. The navy knows what is happening…

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Isotope is correct. You apparently haven’t read our site Policies. Please do so. Ad hominem attacks are against house rules. You are putting yourself on a fast track to being blacklisted. Informed opposition is welcome, lazy and logically invalid is not.

  4. The Rev Kev

    I can see that delving into this one has all the benefits of getting into the middle of a married couple’s argument but here goes anyway. I don’t think that people can just simply slip a cog and go vegan as implied. It is a big deal in changing how you live your life.
    I can see meat and farming corporations fighting this tooth and nail. Remember when an attempt was made to sue Oprah Winfrey back in 1998 under the food libel laws ( because she talked about meat and mad cow disease? Good thing that she was a billionaire who could afford the best of lawyers. Does anybody really think that these corporations will go quietly into the night? Does anybody doubt that they will not have massive public support? Has anybody worked out how many millions of people work in this industry? What are you going to do with all these millions after their industry disappears – offer them a traineeship in coding? We are talking about giving up crackling here!
    Conservatives will have a field day with this. They already have the meme of Soy Boys whom they ridicule going for them so I can only imagine what one for this one will be called. Tofu Muppets perhaps? It will be relentless and merciless and not to be discounted. I know how it will be framed. It will be: “The elite global 10% wants the other 90% to eat tofu burgers so that they can continue to enjoy their steaks and bacon strips!” And that is exactly how it will work out in practice. Meanwhile their enablers will continue to jet around the world – carbon footprint be damned – to conferences to pat themselves on the back for all the good work that they are doing.
    Maybe people should consider a few baby steps here and not go (if you will excuse the phrase) whole hog here. There is a way that meat consumption can be more realistically be decreased by about 14% and that is by going Catholic. By that I mean have at least one day per week that is meatless. So, no butchers open, McDonald’s burgers, Kentucky Fried etc. You start with just one day per week and let people acclimatize to the notion of a deliberate meatless day before you go further. Just sayin’.

    1. larry silber

      Sounds to me like you’re making excuses for you. Sure it is hard to stop doing things we enjoy. But if we delight in things that are obviously detremental to others, and we pronounce to be the moral creatures we express ourselves as, it shouldnt be so difficult. Spend some time around adult pigs lucky enough to be socialized, likewise with the other beings we like to eat! Yes, as long as humans regard animals as things or products, then they’ll be commodified. True, first you have to care. Our societys are interested in other species concerns. Just look at the pet industry. Unfortunately its too easy to pick and choose which animals get that compassion. Humans are racist, and in that same guise they’re speciesist.

      Get angry that corporate masters are brainwashing you to hurt yourself and others. Considering the available information about environmental and ecological damages relating to commercialized animal based protein production, , and the insane cruelty involved that cant be effectually mitigated , continueing to consume animal products is just a selfish stupid choice. Personal responsability is thrown around an aweful lot in regards to earning money. It should be equally projected with regards to behavior. Especially when unnecessary, most surely unsustainable, given the worlds increasing populations. As far as jobs, well thats the lamest excuse ever. Slavery is a good comparison with the meat industry. They use the same tactics to prolong it. The notion that eating meat will ever be mostly off the menue in any real perspective, is as difficult to imagine as slavery ending was to its adherents and denouncers. Slavery finally did end, and since i spend most of my days around sentient animals, i prey we humans stop abusing other creatures for taste. As a side bar, there are so many meat alternatives today that are almost indistinguishable in flavor. Especially hamburgers. If i had the network and credit, a vegan fast food dump like Mcdonalds would be a billion dollar enterprise. Unfortunately right now vegan choices are more expensive than meat. That shouldnt be!!!

      1. The Rev Kev

        Hey man, don’t shoot the messenger! I am only giving you my tactical assessment of the push back any movement to veganism will receive plus a partial solution. You know as well as I that the true reason for all this being a problem (or should know) is that we are several billion people over the carrying capacity of this planet.
        Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to have some bacon for breakfast.

    2. Paul Lebow

      Very true and this falls right under the Naked Capitalism purview. The meat industry is petrified and is pulling out all the stops to fight the tidal wave of veganism and animal cruelty awareness. Some “true” capitalists are taking a different tack – realizing, hey this is new market we can tap. This is why milk companies are now offering soy and almond milk. Tysons is investing in the Beyond Meat veggie burger.

        1. Paul Lebow

          I would suggest you read a little deeper than Scientific American. Under scrutiny those fears have been shown to be unfounded. All of the few anecdotes involved people drinking huge amounts of soy milk.There are actually more of those phytoestrogens in beer.

          Soy has been found to be protective against uterine, ovarian and prostate cancer.

          Worth doing some of your own research (avoid sites that are selling you something).

    3. HotFlash

      Not since, what, the ’60’s here in North America. Went out with women having to wear hats ib church. The latter wiped out a Jewish friend’s family millinery business. Shelly went into teaching, spec in sociology with a Marxist twist. Perhaps the cattle barons and cowboys can upgdate their skillz and still remain useful to society?

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      To be consistent, if you’re for legalizing unconditional marijuana usage (though smoking releases greenhouse gas, and likely risks damaging the lungs), you will be for legalizing unconditional meat-eating.

      Maybe a compromise is this: 3 days per week of smoking and meat eating for each person.

  5. paul

    I am now a terrible recidivist on my own NC policy, I thought I could get by with maybe 1 comment a day.

    Climate has changed before.

    Economic arrangements have not.

    Out of control, abstract rent seeking has not.

    The human need for shelter,nutrition and community has not.

    Environmental change is indeed catastrophic (when I as in school, neil gunn,john prebble were available if not promoted), but the only ones which could be addressed, the carbonic shift,are not.

    Fret about this year’s weather, forget about our toxic, clearly toxigenic environment.

    In the frame of an enormously rent seeking society, it is just leverage.

    If anyone can offer a solution significantly more efficient than grass fed sheep converting grass into food for humans, I will shake their transgenic paw

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Grass fed sheep are actually an environmentally catastrophic option. Sheep destroy pasture and provide quite low levels of nutrients per hectare compared to cattle. They also encourage the use of poor quality upland soils for grazing that would be much better used for forestry purposes (including food producing trees such as hazelnuts) or just left wild.

      1. paul

        The moment I posted, I recognised the contradiction.

        The desolation of the scottish forests to further the industriasation of agriculture was a great crime.
        Though the links I suggested indicate i hope recognise this.

        Upland soils, being resistant to flatland extraction and a first line against weather, should be valued.
        Cattle don’t thrive there, goats and sheep do. Despite their reputation as draught animals they can contribute greatly.
        Efficiency Effectiveness
        It’s a double bubble.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    I doubt that persuasion will change peoples behaviour much. I do hate to bring in the concept of ‘nudges’ and ‘taxes’ but I’ve always believed the most effective way to shift peoples diets is through selective taxation on inputs, not on the final food products. For example, taxing grains fed to animals would I think be a very effective way to promote grass fed animal production over and above intensive feedlot raising. For as long as you can buy chicken or beef as cheap (calorie per calorie) as you can buy green veg, people will prefer to eat it.

    Incidentally, while grass fed animals are less damaging for the environment than those fed on grains, there is an increasing problem with highly intensive dairying. In Ireland, nearly all cattle are raised on grass, but the increased use of intensive inputs (primarily nitrogen on the land), has very significantly raised CO2 outputs and caused all sorts of issues with water pollution. Quite simply, we must start taxing (or at least stop subsidising) the inputs, including fertilisers, if we are to encourage a diet away from animal products.

    1. Foppe

      Taxing feed grains may be effective on paper, but meaningful taxation is never gonna happen — leaving aside that without a change in attitude toward animal product consumption, any price increases will mostly be accepted as unavoidable, much like fuel taxes are. Just look at big oil — still stronger than ever, really, because nothing’s changed when it comes to our habits (including those related to how we design the land — suburbanization is a huge driver of car/fuel use), and if anything, public transport’s only gotten worse.

      And animal agriculture too is a trillion dollar industry, with huge implications for soy/grains/maize production — which, incidentally, is a large part of the reason it was pushed: the invention of fertilizer made grain production too easy/cheap, making it impossible for farmers to make a living; never even mind transportation etc.. And (future) demand for its ‘products’ is going to stay huge so long as everyone associates animal product consumption with affluence/luxury (rather than the unnecessary breeding and killing of other sentient beings for palate pleasure/convenience).
      Even if the aim is only to save humans and/or ‘the ecosystem’, we are in desperate need of an enormous shift in how we look at our food choices — a change of heart, really — to make it even ballpark likely that sufficient people will reconsider their consumption of animal products for it to make a dent. (Mostly self-congratulatory) talk of ‘reducing’ consumption isn’t going to get us anywhere, because ‘in moderation’ is what everyone thinks about their own behavior most of the time anyway. And since it must be voluntary for people to want to do it, the only way out that I see is to point out to people that if you think the unnecessary harming of animals wrong, you ‘must’ also stop using animals for food, because they enjoy life just as much, and the harm we inflict on them is just as avoidable, and thus just as indefensible, as is the voluntary and deliberate harming of ‘pets’. Sure, we *can* eat them, and thus not ‘waste’ their bodies (and/or milk/eggs/skin/etc.). But the point is that we can also just eat plants, and wholly avoid the cycle of raising animals to use and kill them in the first place. So why pay others to unnecessarily breed, use and kill other sentient beings, who enjoy life just as much as we do — if in their own, unique way?

      1. ebbflows

        Here in Oz a past PM nixed live animal exports due to cruelty outcry’s, economic metrics had a big sad. This is replicated by a event in a state where again cruelty was the issue WRT greyhound racing, lots of dogs culled due to poor performance. Again a ban was put into place and economic metrics took a bite.

        In both cases the bans were repealed.

        1. Foppe

          Yeah, top-down ‘fixes’ tend not to do anything, partly because the State tends to refuse to enforce them (or defunds the agencies involved), but mostly because legally, animals are (living) property, and judges, esp. judges in Lockean liberal countries, don’t think it right for the State to tell ‘owners’ how they can use said ‘property’. (And there is no principled difference between the types of use that were forbidden and all other types of use, which are not forbidden. Greyhound racing is not meaningfully ‘crueler’ than avoidably breeding cows and taking away their children to fatten them for avoidable slaughter just because we want to turn cow’s milk (and bodies) into consumer goods; as such, bans make no sense, except insofar it “considers” the feelings of onlookers. And then too, economic interests tend to outweigh other considerations.)

          1. animalogic

            I don’t know if grey hound racing is more or lessmeaningfully crueller than other aspects of the animal food industry.
            I do know that part of the reason for the grey hound ban was that trainers were caught using live baits: that is, dogs had their blood lust deliberately increased by allowing them to attack/ kill etc rabbits. Crueller ??

  7. Foppe

    Yves: “They ignore the fact that low/no animal protein/only grass fed proteins diets are increasingly popular, and that some engage in high carbon footprint activities like regularly flying business class.”

    While I agree it’s sloppily expressed, it seems fairly clear that the implicit point is ‘food-related carbon emissions’. As for grass fed, afaik it’s worse for the environment bc grass is a much less efficient food source, which engenders far higher methane production from gut flora, than do grains and soy.

      1. Foppe

        And this is another reason why I don’t think there is much point in talking about anything other than the fundamental moral issue (i.e., the fact that we are unnecessarily harming animals by using and killing them, when we can just as easily choose not to do so — esp. those of us living near a supermarket, outside inner-city US food deserts).
        Way too much (apparently) contradictory information floating around, funded by parties ranging from the UN FAO to ‘big broccoli’ (not really) to the Animal Ag lobby (or written by people not directly funded by, but indirectly dependent on, or emotionally attached to …).

      2. Paul Lebow

        Not really. The supposed “studies” claiming free range cattle as being good for the environment have been significantly challenged. And, from a land use point of view, grass-fed is unsustainable.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’m looking at my future grass-fed beef as I type. It’s about half a mile away and i’m not sure which one of the dozen or so bessies 1/2 side (about 225 pounds) will be split among 3 neighbors.

          It tastes way different than feedlot beef, as there’s very little fat. About 2/3rds of it will be hamburger.

          We lightly marinate it in olive oil for a spell, before it hits the BBQ.

          1. Paul Lebow

            Great – why don’t you teach the millions of New York City residents how each of them can have their own ranch and raise their own “city cow”. Try to fit a huge freezer in a 4-story walkup. Enjoy your tasty flesh.

        2. TheCatSaid

          Check out the Savory Institute. They are leaders in looking at these issues.

          Reading the original research–including pro-and anti-livestock proponents, and the papers about the Holistic Management developments over the last decades–leads to a major learning: that the metrics commonly used to measure carbon sequestration, methane production by cattle, and the like had missed major components. Alan Savory’s Holistic Management way of looking at things is inspiring and can be applied to policy development of any kind, not just agriculture.

          Reading the actual original research papers is illuminating. One will not get the same understanding by reading media reports. On the Savory website, I recommend perusing the tabs/links related to research.

          1. Paul Lebow

            Totally familiar with Alan Savory. His claims have been thoroughly analyzed and found to be invalid and unsustainable. Remember, he was the one who implemented the misguided mass slaughter of elephants in Africa. While he “apologized” for his error – he has now earned the zero credibility status.

            He makes the claim that livestock is good for the environment if managed properly – He make all sorts of wild assumptions and assertions. I suggest you do your own research on the studies that counter his claims..

    1. Mel

      Remember that the grain diet gets its nourishing goodness from the petroleum that goes to produce it, in fertilizer and intensive tilling.

      1. Matt

        Soil quality is hard to maintain with monocrops. So are wild insects (bees etc) and wild flowers. I agree with those who say we need to focus on gradually (preferably not violently) reducing the human population. But I could be wrong. I’m glad everyone is still allowed to choose their own diet within their budget constraints of course. Stop driving around everywhere like it is some kind of birthright. Incentivize small families through stable and dependable societies (for instance I believe in war torn regions with high casualities the population numbers still rise.) Factory farming and mono cropping are both wrong IMO. Soil quality. Good article in the Guardian the other day on that. Apparently 60 or 100 crops left and the soil is as good as gone the way we’re monocropping.

        Vegetarians enjoy your long and happy lives. I will eat my way and be happy and die young then according to you. We are all going to die. No one has a silver bullet that’s going to save us.

        1. nycTerrierist

          I’m happy knowing my diet isn’t supporting the cruel and gruesome
          meat industry – when it is easy to find satisfying alternatives.
          Good health is a bonus.

          1. Matt

            I think you totally missed the gist of my blurb. I don’t like the ‘meat industry’ either but I do eat meat. But maybe I’m cruel and gruesome for what I do, but maybe you should find out a bit more about how things fit together for me before you choose to reply thusly to my post. I like animals and I believe in animal welfare. You don’t address any of the issues that go along with vegetarianism/veganism on a large scale. You’re going to have to really work on developing a better idea of farming and what it’s going to take to reverse the catastrophe that we’re in the middle of. Until one of you vegans proves you really understand soil and what it takes to make it rich and sustainable, you’re full of it with your moral posturing.

            1. Paul Lebow

              What are you saying – a field of broccoli or strawberry’s or black beans is obviously more damaging than thousands of square miles of deforested grazing land and soy feed crop? What is it about soil that I need to understand?

  8. Rob Urie

    The only difficulty in being vegan is that animal products are hidden in prepared foods where one wouldn’t expect them.

    Otherwise, it’s as easy as breathing.

  9. Louis Fyne

    climate change is such a threat that we must make drastic changes.

    but let’s keep burning fracking and shipping natural gas and fuel oil for electricity when there is a stop gap alternative, nuclear power, that can buy more time until renewables + battery tech and/or fusion can electricity demand 24-7 regardless of weather.

  10. Steven

    Veganism would help but isn’t an answer. There is only one answer. We need to control the birth rate or nothing else we do matters. The article in Bloomberg the other day that the population bomb is no longer a worry due to projected population leveling around 11 billion by 2100 is insanity. After 30 years we can’t even get people to recycle properly here in the US. Less people is the only thing that need discussing everything else is irrelevant.

    1. funemployed

      I agree about population (though I disagree that discussing other things is not relevant). It’s disturbing how few articles on climate change mitigation mention the basic arithmetic of human population vs. space. I believe general Grant pointed out the unpleasant necessity of “facing the arithmetic,” which is very necessary at this stage.

      Also, I find things like “what are you waiting for?” re: veganism to be naive, idealistic, counterproductive, and irritatingly condescending. I have no intention of “going vegan.” I’m a human, and last I checked, no human society has ever, in the history of humanity, voluntarily “gone vegan.” We are omnivores, and if a few privileged zealots think they can change that … well, I wish them luck.

      That said, I eat less beef than I used to, spend several meatless days a week, and someday hope to raise rabbits for meat (when I have the space to do so). Likewise, milk and eggs aren’t nearly so bad as meat – so I get more protein from those these days. People who hunt deer and feral pigs for meat also carry some water for those of us who insist on shopping at the grocery store.

      Finally, I’m poor (albeit educated) – none of the vegans I know are. I hardly ever fly. I don’t have (or intend to have) children. I live in a small and very energy efficient apt. I share a car and walk and use public transit whenever possible. I throw out as little plastic as possible. Consequently, I know damned well that my environmental footprint is smaller than every single self-righteous vegan I know (and yes, I do know quite a few).

      Of course eating less commercially produced meat helps, and most of us can accomplish that without significantly impacting our lifestyles. Indeed, most of us can do a heck of a lot of things better, but all or none rhetoric alienates most people from the outset, and provides little guidance for how those of us who haven’t drank the vegan kool-aid can make a real difference. (btw, for those of you thinking about going vegan, you need to start studying amino acids or you’re asking for trouble).

      1. funemployed

        Oh yeah. The headline also implies that we could actually “avoid dangerous climate change” by halving our meat and dairy intake. That is silly. Wouldn’t hurt, but c’mon, doesn’t help credibility much to make claims like that. If it were that easy…

      2. larry silber

        , I find things like “what are you waiting for?” re: veganism to be naive, idealistic, counterproductive, and irritatingly condescending. I have no intention of “going vegan.” I’m a human, and last I checked, no human society has ever, in the history of humanity, voluntarily “gone vegan.” We are omnivores, and if a few privileged zealots think they can change that … well, I wish them luck.

        What does omnivore mean? Is that some proud label? I think it means that you can eat a variety of things. Thats the point! You dont need to consume animal protein, like a predator. Again, your rational is quite popular, but in the end just misdirection. Dont worry about others, start with changing your own diet because you yourself are causing harm. Obviously you have to care about the animals , otherwise why change, youre correct. The only reason i dont eat animals or wear their skins is because i dont want to be involved in their exploitation. Climate change is just a bonus. Your note to study amino acids is also baloney!. Amino acids are components of protein, and they dont matter whether they arise from carion or plant matter. They are the same amino acids. The difference between plant based diets and meat is related to whether or not that particular plant based food source has all the amino acids, where as in meat all the essential amino acids are represented in the cellular matrix of the muscle. So, when eating plant based diets one has to have a varied diet in order to expose themselves to all 8 or 9 essential amino acids. Amino acids make up the 10000 plus different protein forms. A particular plant based food is made up of protein, but might not have all the essential amino acids in that protein, so some might say its not a complete protein. All you have to do is have a varied diet, and then youll stumble upon those essential amino acids. Nobody just eats one thoing anyway, so why do proponents of meat eating claim vegans cant get all their aminos? Sounds like bad marketing to me!

        1. funemployed

          My point was just that voluntary veganism has never been achieved outside of small and particularly committed subcultures, so is not a realistic strategy for social animals that evolved eating animal products. It’s not a moral claim.

          Also, vegans most definitely can get all their amino acids, they just need to know how and be able to do it. Do you think your typical american struggling to get by can shift their lifestyle, access the right nutrition, and successfully do all that research, or even understand and apply the info in your comment? How successfully can we convince most people to go vegan?

          If reducing meat consumption is your goal, arguments about the virtues of veganism are irrelevant compared to what can be accomplished with education about the relative impact and health benefits/drawbacks of various kinds of meat, along with practical and comparatively simple advice that lots of people can realistically implement without a dramatic lifestyle change.

          I am concerned about other people, and immune to vegan evangelizing. So are lots of other people, which was my point.

          1. jrs

            Also it’s easier to cook vegan for one than two or more (because good luck everyone agreeing on going vegan) but OTOH living together also reduces carbon use and from a more practical perspective reduces expenses.

          2. Paul Lebow

            “Also, vegans most definitely can get all their amino acids, they just need to know how and be able to do it. ”

            Open a can of beans, make a tofu scramble, eat a veggie burger, drink some soy milk, eat some quinoa … What a “struggle”!!!

            There now you have your Ph.D. in getting enough protein.

    2. Cowsock

      Careful with this one. Overpopulation questions easily slip into the “too many of them not enough of us” discussions. Living in highly energy-intensive ways and traveling round the globe on jets is what’s unsustainable. Extreme economic inequality (both between the global north and south, and within the global north) drives energy use way out of proportion with the population.

      See Andreas Malm talking about the ‘Capitalocene’ in place of the ‘Anthropocene’.

      1. alan2102

        “Living in highly energy-intensive ways and traveling round the globe on jets is what’s unsustainable.”

        YES, thank you. Far more important than head-count of humans. But the Malthusian obsession with head-counts of humans serves capitalism and oligarchy by drawing attention away from the true causes of our problems and, misanthropically, blaming people instead — particularly poor brown people “over there”. The REAL overpopulation problem, if there is one, is of course amongst the rich in the developed world.

    3. alan2102

      “Less people is the only thing that need discussing”

      Rubbish, and dangerous rubbish. Less CONSUMPTION is the thing that needs discussing, and that no one wants to discuss; it is the real taboo. Consumption profile determines everything, almost. Population growth rate has dropped since the mid-80s with no end in sight. ZPG by ~2050. The population bomb has been defused. The CONSUMPTION BOMB has not.

    4. Paul Lebow

      OK – maybe Trump will help you along with reducing the worlds population by a few billion in time to have an impact on the climate.

  11. TG

    So let me see. The rich have encouraged a population explosion, forcing populations ever upwards. Now, in order to make room for all these new people “we” (meaning everyone but the rich who are largely responsible) must steadily lower our quality of life. Remember, there is no lower bound here until we hit bare subsistence. Today we get rid of meat and dairy; tomorrow we get rid of beer and wine; then fruit (vitamin tablets are so much more efficient to grow and ship), then snacks… Finally we get rid of enough food to keep us healthy, I mean that’s a luxury too? Don’t we want to save the world? And we end up like Bangladesh, where half the population is chronically malnourished and most of the rest is hardly better off.

    One is reminded that a high standard of living is not a problem if the population density is modest, but there is no standard of living so low that, if people all are encouraged to have six kids starting at age 14, the land cannot be stripped bare. Places like Canada and Norway are (for now) examples of man at peace with nature, while in India the skies are choked with pollutants and the rivers run with filth, and CO2 production is projected to zoom off the charts.

    Suggestion: Let the rich who have screamed “the more the merrier” these past generations practice what they preach and also give up all their luxuries to “save the planet.” But I don’t think so. Because becoming poor to make room for ever more numbers is so only for little people. And this is not about saving the planet. This is about making people love their impoverishment.

    1. Anonymized

      Canada as an example of man at peace with nature? What would you call the tar sands industry? The Chippewa of the Thames First Nation have spent the last few decades with oil and chemical companies dumping all kinds of stuff into their water, to the point that two girls are born for every boy and they and the nearby city of Sarnia have some of the highest rates of cancer and asthma in the country. Instead of cleaning up the chemicals, these companies just declared bankruptcy and left.

      Also, the Grassy Narrows First Nation had a nearby paper mill dumping chemicals in their water for decades:

      These are just two examples and there are many more across the country.

  12. Phacops

    Not interested. As somebody, a part of a couple who have chosen not to have children, we cannot do as much damage as those who decided to have children and are free to waste as much as we can yet do far less damage than another birth.

    Nobody is talking about zero to negative population growth which is needed to make any change sustainable. Until the climate scolds start to pay attention to reducing the human population I have no interest in cutting back my carbon footprint since I’ve already done my part.

    1. Dirk77

      As someone who did his part in California for years conserving water and recycling, and all the thank you I got was more people, vanishing places to hike, more congested roads and higher rent, I totally understand. Apparently others on this blog too. Tragedy of the Commons.

  13. christine

    Respected scholars, the Pimentals, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show quite clearly that the population on earth today is not sustainable even if everyone became vegetarian now.

    What must be cut in half…or further…back to the 1.6 billion at the start of the industrial revolution, is the number of humans. And, it will. The only question is how soon, what other living creatures will be left and how toxic a place we will leave.

    I would think Naked Capitalism would not diminish itself by publishing this drivel.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That study is crap. Assumes average calorie consumption of over 3500 calories per day, when the average is 2500. That’s an exaggeration of a full 40%. And you have the temerity to cite that and attack a post based on that?

      And it’s based on the “US food production system”, where you have a lot of transport costs due to the size of the country and our willingness to import food. In Australia, by contrast, the food was overwhelmingly local, as is the case for India, with vastly larger population.

      Had you bothered to look at the underlying Greenpeace report, you’ll see it has extensive footnotes, with many to academic studies, with a foreword by a professor in soils and climate science, and they also provide a separate science backgrounder. By contrast, the study you cited is from 2003. So the most one can say is that there is some counterevidence.

  14. Wukchumni

    For what it’s worth dept:

    The vast majority of vegetarians I know are women, and I suspect that many do it, in order to be on a perpetual diet of sorts, and of course some aren’t cool about eating animals or other reasoning such as livestock flatulence leading to ever more warming of the planet we don’t especially need right now.

    Once you’ve seen Mother Nature in action, it’s an everything eat everything world. The other day I watched a red tail hawk chasing lunch midair, in the bird eat bird equation of things.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The plural of anecdote is not data. Seventh Day Adventists, men and women, are vegans. And they aren’t on diets.

      You can get plenty of fat in a vegan diet: nuts, seeds, avocados, oils.

      I know more men who are vegans than women (so there!), including sports fanatics (one plays tennis daily and hits the gym on top of that).

      1. Wukchumni

        An estimated 35% of Adventists practice vegetarianism or veganism, according to a 2002 worldwide survey of local church leaders. (Wiki)

        For a cult whose members are considered pretty healthy, 2/3rds are meat eaters…

        I know just one man who’s a vegetarian, and about 25 women.

        Perhaps others can relate to their experiences, in this regard, i’d be curious as to what’s what?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Not only are there pro athletes who are vegan, some recommend veganism to improve sports performance:

          The impact of a vegan diet on health and athletic performance is widely debated. Some athletes claim the diet change can lead to faster recovery times and increased energy. David C. Nieman, a professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University, told The New York Times, “It’s possible to eat a lousy vegetarian diet, just as you as can eat a lousy meat-based diet.” While veganism alone isn’t going to turn you into a buff athlete, it certainly won’t prevent that from happening either. Many athletes have proven they can make the diet work for them in a healthy way. Here are some of the many strong male athletes who follow a vegan diet.

          1. Wukchumni

            I’ve only heard of 2 of the 10, and if you were to take the elite pro athletes in MLB, NBA, NHL & the NFL just by the numbers of those participating, it sounds as if 2 out of say 5,000 players are vegetarian, a tiny number.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Help me.

              You were basically arguing that men somehow could not be vegans. Now you’ve shifted grounds utterly. What people do as a matter of habit is not proof than they can’t change habits.

              I show you examples of men who are not only performing competitively, some are in sports that explicitly require lots of muscle mass, which is one differentiator between average men and average women. So there’s no need to eat meat to perform well, contra your claim.

              As to what athletes eat, my trainer trains and rehabs pro athletes and has a reputation for being cutting edge but rigorous. He works with MDs who read the scientific literature (and they say most studies are crap, they look hard at validity) for things that might enhance performance.

              He says he sees no problem with a vegan diet for men in sports, he sees more bad diets among conventional eaters.

              1. Wukchumni

                You never know with athletes, I was sitting a few rows behind the L.A. Clippers bench about a decade ago and watched the trainer slyly pour Hire’s root beer into water bottles for a few of the players, I couldn’t imagine running up and down the court with soda in my belly.

                I never said men couldn’t be vegetarians, merely that the overwhelming amount i’m aware of, aren’t.

                The only vegetarians I know that could be considered athletes would be a mother-daughter duo that are full on vegans, and they do just fine, walked the John Muir trail a couple of years ago together.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  You are again off base. Soda has sugar and would give a short term energy boost. The carbonation means it gets into your system faster. Root beer may seem unconventional, but it’s no worse than Gatorade, whose sport benefits are urban legend.

                  I know tons of upper caste Indian men who are vegetarians, and some of them are serious amateur athletes. As I said, my trainer also has vegans among the men in his clientele. He’d be sure to tell them it was limiting their performance if he thought it was the case. So would their coaches.

                  1. Wukchumni

                    There are 10x as many vegetarians in India than in the USA on a percentage of population basis, so no doubt you’ve come across many Indian men that are vegetarians, it makes sense.

                  2. Dirk77

                    The Indian men you cite were probably raised as vegans. Anyone who didn’t make the cut died long ago. And the trainers you cite probably have a self-selecting clientele. The bottom line is that when you take ideological fervor out of it, it comes down to trial and error for each individual.

                    That said, I’m fulling willing to have everyone in the world becomes vegans, for reasons I’ve stated previously on this blog.

    2. jrs

      from a health perspective it would probably be better if men were vegans rather than women, *health* only, as most women are pretty protected from heart attacks until menopause and lose iron every month until then as well, so the red meat might not be quite so bad as it is for men.

      But yes dieting is the gateway to obsessing over what food one eats for many women. Pure veganism is going to be hard for most people, eating less animal products might be doable.

  15. John Rose

    I protest the later placement on the right side of the screen of my endorsement of the 9:38 AM comment by Croatoan, implying I was endorsing the leading article. I was endorsing only the well-reasoned comment on the article, not the article itself!

  16. XXYY

    The fact that meat is getting the bad press it deserves lately, and vegetarianism and veganism are getting prominence, is very good news. I’ve frankly been surprised it has taken this long.

    The meat industry is horrific in almost every possible way, cruel, polluting, resource-consumptive, contaminated, and toxic. Only intense secrecy (helped by remote locations and “ag-gag” laws) keeps popular disgust from gaining traction.

    Meat as a dietary component is unneeded at best, unsanitary and toxic at worst. Antibiotics, prions, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, hormones, and feces are just some of the fun things one can take into one’s body by eating meat, along with cholesterol and fat.

    Meat as an ecosystem component is dire. More than 90% of input protein is excreted as animal feces in a meat based diet, meaning that 10x the population could be fed with the same amount of crops if they were eaten directly, or alternatively 1/10th the land, water, pesticides, and fertilizer could be used to feed the same population. Untreated feedlot sewage, unspeakable filth festering with bacteria, antibiotics and hormones, is discharged directly into waterways with no regulation, in amounts that dwarf the human sewage load. Food animals, particularly cows, emit vast amounts of methane, which has 30x the heat trapping effect of CO2. And foraging animals remove surface vegetation, causing precious and irreplaceable topsoil to blow away in the wind and wash away in the rain.

    Hopefully all these horrors will start to enter the public consciousness and the use of meat will wither, as happened with tobacco.

  17. Arizona Slim

    I have a confession to make: I flunked veganism.

    Earlier this year, I tried to become a vegan. I really tried.

    After a few weeks, I noticed that I felt run-down and kind of blues-y. Not depressed, just blues-y.

    So, I started adding more animal protein to my diet. A bit of meat, some fish, eggs, and dairy.

    After nearly a month, I can’t believe how much more energy I have. My outlook on life has done a 180.

    Oh, yeah, I should mention something about giving up Facebook for the second half of Lent. Another positive change in the life of Slim.

  18. jerry

    I would gladly do vegan (giving up the milk would be a challenge) but it would be a real challenge to figure out what the heck I was going to eat each day, I am not a cook nor do I want to invest a ton of time figuring out a new diet that doesnt taste like lettuce. And theres the issue of just getting enough calories. We need vegan fast food joints and I’ll sign up lol. I barely eat enough as it is with one meal provided by my employer and scrounging together for another one or two each day besides that.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      High quality fatty stuff like seeds, nuts, avocados, and coconut oil will take care of calories.

      Tastes are acquired. Apparently if you eat anything 10X you start to like it.

      1. nycTerrierist

        Yes, avocados, seeds, nuts, legumes like chick peas do the trick!
        High quality olive oil on salads etc.
        Add Brewer’s Yeast (Nutritional Yeast) to savory dishes.
        Many ways to make a plant-based diet tasty and satisfying.
        I hardly cook – just use good wholesome ingredients.
        I do eat fish as well.
        the biggest challenge: I’ve been off dairy for the past couple years (stopped meat many years ago) — it was alot easier than I’d expected.

      2. Croatoan

        Calories =/= Calories and Fats =/= Fats.

        All those fatty foods you listed are very high in short chain PUFAs. They do not metabolize well to long chain PUFAs.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Please stop making stuff up. You are violating site rules.

          First, animal and most vegetable fats are both long chain. No difference in bioavailability, as you incorrectly imply.

          Second, bodybuilders use medium chain tryglicerides (and coconut oil is 62-65% MCT) as a way to improve their energy levels while on a ketogenic diet precisely because it is more readily converted to glucose than other fats (the point of a ketogenic diet is that you deprive the body of carbs and force it to use fats, and your body does not make glucose from fats as efficiently as carbs). See here:

          Long chain fatty acids (LCFA) found in plant and animal fat are not easily absorbed by the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and require pancreatic enzymes and bile salts to break them down so that they can be absorbed by the intestine. Next, the long chain fatty acids must go through a complicated process through which they are delivered to a variety of tissues, including adipose, cardiac and skeletal tissue, and are then transported to the liver, and are finally oxidized for energy use. This is how all saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and cholesterol that consists of long chain fatty acids (almost all of your dietary fat) is transported throughout the body.

          In contrast, medium chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil are absorbed by the GI tract with ease, and do not require any pancreatic enzymes to break them down, which means less work for your pancreas. Next, medium chain fatty acids are transported through the blood stream, directly to the liver, where they go directly into mitochondria and are immediately oxidized for energy. Medium chain fatty acids from coconut oil do not get packaged into lipoproteins, and do not get transported to a variety of tissues and are not stored as body fat, they go directly to the liver and are metabolized immediately for energy. So they do not cause weight gain.

          The bottom line is that the medium chain fatty acids from coconut oil produce almost exclusively energy, whereas, long chain fatty acids found in other dietary fats produce body fat (and some energy).

          1. Croatoan

            You know what Yves, you may know a lot about economics but you know little about nutrition and biology. And instead of being a control freak and say you are going to ban me you should maybe assume you are wrong and that I might be someone who has the credentials to know more than you.

            I did not say there was a “difference in bioavailability”, I said the short chain PUFAs do not metabolize well to long chain PUFAs. I did not mention long or short chain chain fatty acids. You do not know enough to parse what I said to understand it.

            I would go on but I am tired of people like you with blogs who suddenly think they know everything because they know one thing well.

            Delete this is you want, but it is my last comment on your blog, though I will still read it for the economics.

      3. David

        Another piece of the puzzle is the water usage footprint.

        Litres of water per – kilocalorie – gram of protein – gram of fat

        Vegatables – 1.34 – 26 – 154
        Fruits – 2.09 – 180 – 348
        Cereals – 0.51 – 21 – 112
        Pulses (legumes) – 1.19 – 19 – 180
        Nuts – 3.63 – 139 – 47
        Milk – 1.82 – 31 – 33
        Eggs – 2.29 – 29 – 33
        Chicken meat – 3.00 – 34 – 43
        Pig meat – 2.15 – 57 – 23
        Bovine meat – 10.19 – 112 – 153

        Nuts have a bigger water footprint than dairy, chicken and pig meat.

        We’ll need to be considerate of water usage if we’re going to grow sugar cane for biodegradable LEGOs. /sarc

  19. Adrienne

    Discussions of dietary habits can get as fraught as those about religion and politics. But here goes…

    I am sympathetic to the commitment of vegans to reduce their participation in the exploitation of animals via agriculture. For the vegans I know, their dietary choice is primarily an ethical one. I will not contest their right to eat as they believe. Vegans can be a bit… how to put it delicately…evangelical?

    There are three main arguments surrounding veganism: human health, animal welfare, and environmental. All three subjects are complex and require nuanced examination.

    First, the health argument. The evils of saturated fats have been greatly exaggerated….the negative health impacts of so-called “vegetable” oils are at least as significant as those from animal fats. I know too many vegetarians & vegans who eat lots of highly processed foods, including those execrable fake “meats.” Eating vegan is intrinsically no more healthy than eating well as an omnivore.

    Research into the gut biome is revealing some pretty interesting insights into why some people thrive on certain diets and others do not. Claims of the “perfect human diet” fall down when faced with individual tolerances. I know a few vegans who absolutely thrive on the diet; I’ve also known more than a few who abandoned veganism after failing to thrive. Why would this be so? Interestingly enough, some people’s gut biomes do spectacularly well on plant proteins alone; some others’ cannot digest plant proteins effectively, and large amounts of plant proteins cause an inflammatory response in those folks. No one seems to know exactly why identical diets can cause such differing responses in individuals, but genetics, family immunity, and other factors seem important.

    Animal welfare: it is absolutely true that confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are cruel and despicable places. The reason that most of our meat comes from CAFOs is pure economics: a farmer cannot afford to raise his/her animals humanely and sell on the conventional market. Niche markets for pasture-raised animals exist, but the products are very expensive as compared to factory output. No surprises there, as pasture-raising farms are unable to pass on the externalities of their operations, thus we get “cheap” meat and dairy. If meat-eaters refused to support CAFO meat, and were willing to pay a lot more, farmers could again afford to treat their animals well and avoid much of the pollution associated with livestock operations.

    As for exploitation of animals… I’ve gotten myself in VERY hot water a few times by mentioning that the pet trade is an incredibly exploitative industry. Pets are, by any definition, animals exploited for human service and pleasure. Cats are obligate carnivores, so every cat owner is participating in animal exploitation thru purchasing its food.

    Environment: as many commenters have pointed out, the gross population of humans on the planet is not sustainable, no matter what those 7+ billion are eating. Humans have continued to convert more and more land to the service of feeding ourselves, and that land conversion destroys the local ecology, whether the land is growing grain for human consumption, grain for animal consumption, or pasture grasses.

    And what of the oceans? A lot of folks think they’re being environmentally responsible by eating ocean fish, but the reality is that the oceans are being depleted at an alarming rate. Over 80% of global fisheries are unsustainable, according to the UN’s FAO. Fisheries destroy invisibly: no one can really “see” the health of the ocean. Land-raised protein put the impacts right in our face, if we choose to look.

    Cows emit methane; so do rice paddies, landfills, wastewater plants, biomass facilities, etc. Plowing land releases vast amounts of CO2 as the carbon in the soil is liberated via oxygenation. The fact is that intensive agriculture is extraordinarily damaging to the environment, whether the crops are grains, ruminants, fruit, tree nuts, etc. Feeding 7+ billion is destroying the earth’s natural ecosystems, and veganism won’t change that.

    Veganism is a wonderful idea, but it is hardly a panacea for our environmental calamities. Simplistic solutions are rarely adequate to address complex problems.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Seems there’s a question of proportion here.

      It is simplistic to equate the so-called exploitation of pets with the industrialized
      misery and cruelty of factory farms.
      (I am not referring here to puppy mills and animal cruelty of course, which should be banned).

      Seems to me you advocate doing nothing about climate change unless
      it’s a ‘panacea’.

      1. Adrienne

        @nyc, Seems to be a question of bias here. I’ve owned pets in the past, but never will do so again. Many people are incredibly decent to their pets, but nonetheless pets are treated in ways that while not legally “cruel,” nonetheless expose the truth of their status.

        To wit: enforced sterilization and immunization; collars and harnesses; crates and runs; being left alone all day; forcing them to live with animals that don’t get along; dressing them up in human clothes; making them do tricks; being bought and sold; etc.

        The fashion today is to refer to pets as “members of the family,” but how often do people give away family members when it is no longer convenient to keep them? Yet pet owners do this all the time.

        So yes, I consider pet ownership to be exploiting animals.

        Seems to me you advocate doing nothing about climate change unless
        it’s a ‘panacea’.

        Yeah, no, I didn’t say that. You’re strawmanning.

        1. nycTerrierist

          I will rephrase: after acknowledging veganism might be a ‘wonderful idea’,
          you then ultimately dismiss it because it is not a panacea
          for environmental calamities.

          1. Adrienne

            The article above explicitly calls for adoption of a vegan diet “to avoid dangerous climate change.” The author is proposing that veganism can make a significant difference in climate change. My point is that it’s not that simple.

            A lot of people won’t, or can’t, become vegans. Virtually all of the world’s traditional diets include some animal products: good luck convincing a billion Indians to give up ghee, or Chinese folks to give up pork. Universal veganism is an unrealistic goal, and if we’re basing our ability to to “avoid dangerous climate change” on it, then we’re pretty well out of luck.

            My other point about population and agriculture is equally valid. Can the earth support ten billion vegan humans? Twenty? How many car-driving vegans can the planet support?

            I’ve gone weary on the way that environmentalists propose solutions: dismissing the things one doesn’t like or doesn’t engage in, and presume that if everyone did just as they we would solve all the world’s problems. I’ve had vegan friends who swear they were saving the earth, nevermind that little issue of flying 80,000+ miles per year.

            Have kids or don’t have kids. Fly or don’t fly. Ride a bike, drive a truck. Eat meat or don’t. It’s ALL important, and people do what they can, based on their ability, will, and life status.

            Fact is, there are too many humans; we appropriate too much of the natural bounty of the earth; and we make too much pollution.

            1. Paul Lebow

              As far as what you personally can do about climate change, beyond not eating animals, not much. Vegans use considerably less water than non-vegans, don’t contribute to ocean depletion or climate change. So you are asking your frequent-flier vegan friend to quit his or her job and drop out of society while you continue to consume planet-destroying diet?

    2. Arizona Slim

      @Adrienne, welcome to the super-hot tub. I, too, have gotten myself into the same boiling water. Bringing up the exploitive aspects of the pet trade seems to be a no-no.

      1. Foppe

        On ‘pets’: Yes, breeding animals because we desire ‘companionship’ is morally problematic. But it is problematic for the exact same reason animal use for food is, because both presuppose that we get to choose how other animals live, and when they die. And both are completely avoidable uses of animals, because we can eat plants. Would encourage you to read this essay, as it might help clarify your thinking (and the connection): ; this is a decent alternative

        (As for obligate carnivores: yes, killing animals because we want to keep other animals alive is morally indefensible. But so is deliberately killing extant animals, esp. given that the cat food being sold is mostly a byproduct of animal use for human food. It’s a conundrum, though, and I personally won’t adopt cats because of it. But the fundamental moral issue is breeding animals to use for our pleasure/habit/convenience.)

        As for your issues trying to figure out how to be healthy as a vegan, Slim: I would recommend you check out McDougall’s The Starch Solution, or the healthiest diet on the planet. I and my wife and a few other vegans I know have been eating mostly according to the principles laid out for ~4y now, working out great, and very easy to stick to.

        1. cnchal

          . . . The only use of animals that we make that is not transparently frivolous is the use of animals in research to find cures for serious illnesses. . .

          A surprise sentence.

    3. Paul Lebow

      You said – ” I know a few vegans who absolutely thrive on the diet; I’ve also known more than a few who abandoned veganism after failing to thrive. Why would this be so? Interestingly enough, some people’s gut biomes do spectacularly well on plant proteins alone; some others’ cannot digest plant proteins effectively, and large amounts of plant proteins cause an inflammatory response in those folks.”

      Wow – you really need to back this one up. One of the problems is people lump together “vegan” diets – its possible to eat a really crappy high fat and refined carb diet. I know dozens of meat eaters who are “failing to thrive” – obese, diabetic or pre-diabetic, heart disease, colon cancer. Of the hundreds of vegans I am familiar with, all are exceedingly healthy and thriving.

      Actually veganism IS a panacea for reversing climate change.

    4. Paul Lebow

      Adrienne said -“As for exploitation of animals… I’ve gotten myself in VERY hot water a few times by mentioning that the pet trade is an incredibly exploitative industry”

      Not sure what your point is. Anytime one challenges someone’s behavior there will be pushback. People will do backflips to justify their behaviors. One of my favorites from meat eaters is, “Well, its already dead so there’s no harm in eating it.”

      You are making an extreme false equivalence seeming to compare crops for human consumption to be no better than for animal consumption. The nutrient yield per acre is 4 to 10 times higher for plants than animals. We would need from 4 to 10 times less acreage with a vegan planet.

      You said, ” If meat-eaters refused to support CAFO meat, and were willing to pay a lot more, farmers could again afford to treat their animals well and avoid much of the pollution associated with livestock operations.”
      You just made the case for the un-sustainability of non-CAFO meat. Is that what you want? Food for the few and the rich?

      You said,” I know too many vegetarians & vegans who eat lots of highly processed foods, including those execrable fake “meats.” Eating vegan is intrinsically no more healthy than eating well as an omnivore.”
      Again, your point?? A vegan diet IS intrinsically more healthy for the planet. Lumping “fake meats” as being unhealthy because, well, they’re “fake”, is a silly argument. Sure, a small percentage of the population is gluten intolerant, so avoid anything made with wheat. A much larger percent of the population is lactose intolerant so should avoid cows milk (which is really just “fake” soy or almond milk) If you feel the need to drink a bovine bodily fluid meant to grow a baby calf into a half-ton cow, don’t blame that on a false need to avoid a ‘dangerous’ vegan diet. If a vegan decides to make poor food choices, don’t blame that on veganism in general.

      You said, “Research into the gut biome is revealing some pretty interesting insights into why some people thrive on certain diets and others do not.” Well, do the “research” (like Wikipedia) on TMAO generation in the gut biome due to animal proteins which promote this heart disease promoting agent in the body.

  20. Adrienne

    A number of people have discovered that their health issues can be dealt with by restricting certain types of plant materials, called fructans, from their diet. Plants have developed a robust arsenal of toxins to protect themselves from rot and predation, and these compounds can be quite unhealthy for certain individuals.

    Coincidentally, many of these plant foods happen to be the foundation for a vegan/vegetarian diet. This may help explain why some people simply can’t be healthy on a vegan/vegetarian diet.

    1. Paul Lebow

      So you are claiming there is a significant population who should skip the sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving, or the rice at a Thai restaurant, or a salad, or the bite of an apple? Or are you saying that a dose of cows milk is an antidote to this poisonous plant food. Or is that some poison is OK?

      It amazes me to see the extent that people will go through to justify their poor and unethical diet choices – all for the sake of perceived pleasure. (be honest – the thought of never again sinking you teeth into a juicy piece of cow flesh is devastating )

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, this is nonsense. This is a fad diet based on a single study based on some labwork. Not even a human study using an adequate sample size and controls.

        This is typical of what passes for nutrition knowledge.

      2. Stephanie

        Having found an enormous amount of relief from IBS on a low-fructan diet, as in I now longer felt as if I had a live chipmunk trying to dig it’s way out of my torso, this comment is literally the opposite of the way the diet is handled and experienced and destroys your credibility. Since a Google search is beyond you, what nutritionists recommend is an elimination diet followed by a reintroduction of high-FODMAPs foods to determine what is most problematic for each person. After that high-FODMAPs foods are included in back in the diet in reduced amounts based on what irritates the individual.

        Most nutritionists who prescribe the diet seem to think it is a lifetime change. Anecdotally, from talking to others who have also tried it, it is possible to rebuild tolerance for some items (I can now eat onions, garlic, chickpeas without too many problems) but more than very small doses of cherries, raw broccoli, and black beans may always be a struggle.

        I feel zero moral qualms about this.

  21. JohnnyGL

    I think this article is frustrating and even problematic. It distracts us from the real source of the problems (oligarchs/companies that behave destructively) and the real solutions (political)

    Should we eat lower down the food chain? Yes, that’s helpful, but fairly minor.

    Should we stop eating meat because…rainforest destruction? No, we should ban imports of soy, beef, timber, and palm oil from countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Guatemala, Honduras until they clean up their act.

    We should also regulate feedlots as the polluters they are. We should attack them with anti-trust, too.

    We shouldn’t demonize ranchers (especially in semi-arid environments) who manage their land properly and treat their animals humanely. Those ranchers are building soil and improving soil quality, retaining water and replenishing aquifers, feeding people and trapping carbon in land that often isn’t fit for growing crops for any length of time.

    Sheldon Frith has done a nice job collecting fun videos that show the difference good management can make and he’s also got lots of academic studies cited on his site.

    1. .juliania

      I think you make sound points, Johnny GL. Adressing such a serious matter as climate change by suggesting veganism as the answer doesn’t approach the problem in ameaningful and constructive way. There is a symbiotic balance between flesh and plant life on this planet, each to a certain extent needing the other to exist. Look at the balance between the salmon and forests in Alaska, the ways in which wolf introduction balance with forests in national parks, the buffalo creating beautiful prairie grasslands. These relattionships are fundamental .

      It all comes down to balance in a variety of ways, but really the basic necessity is soil life itself. Maybe the climate will still change; it has before. But sustainable agriculture practises in which farm animals play a valuable part in keeping the soil rich and productive is to me what we are on this planet to accomplish for our and our fellow living beings’ health and welfare.

    2. Paul Lebow

      Johnny GL -Well, I’m all for pointing to corporate capitalism as a main culprit to all of our woes – but that, in no way, absolves the individual choices we make.

      You say “Should we eat lower down the food chain? Yes, that’s helpful, but fairly minor.” Environmental analysts strongly disagree with your “fairly minor”. Your claim may feel good, but its unsupportable. Why even make it?

      You say, ” Those ranchers are building soil and improving soil quality, retaining water and replenishing aquifers, feeding people and trapping carbon in land that often isn’t fit for growing crops for any length of time.” This is a concept that, again, is unsupportable. These supposed free-range cattle still have to be watered and fed – there are studies showing that their trampling of grassland is actually environmentally destructive. A vastly reduced amount of land is needed to feed a vegan population – we could let these lands with your dubious claim as being unfit for crops – return to their natural state.

  22. Anonymized

    Since everyone is commenting about how their diet is the best, let me jump in. I’ve been mostly vegetarian for the past five years for reasons of poverty and health; the diet has really improved my energy levels and quality of poop. Seriously, regular and well-formed. People always think I’m younger than I am but maybe it’s because I’m Asian.

    The only thing I really try and avoid is red meat but I have a hard time refusing if somebody offers me some. I regret it later when I’m on the toilet.

  23. Adam Eran

    Boy, is this ever controversial. I have never convinced anyone to go vegan (although I’ve eaten the diet for years and feel I’ve never eaten better). People tell me how young and handsome I look too! No really! Come back…!

    Nevertheless, here goes:

    1. The China Study includes an account of the largest study ever conducted of the connection between diet and health…no climate connections explored. The author, Colin Campbell, a Columbia biochemist is a legitimate scientist. Among other things, he found aflatoxin, a mold-based carcinogen.

    Campbell grew up on a dairy farm, eating plenty of meat and milk. Now he travels the country promoting a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet.

    2. You might take a look at Dr. John McDougall’s testimonials. He’s been “treating” patients for decades with a little Western medicine, but mostly with that WFPB diet.

    This is not light-duty stuff, either. It’s things like “I was so sick with lupus I was in a wheelchair. Now I run marathons.” McDougall successfully treats all of the diseases Campbell demonstrated were implicated in diets full of animal protein: heart disease, arteriosclerosis, auto-immune diseases (lupus, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis), diabetes (people discard their medication because they don’t need it), etc. etc.

    Incidentally, Campbell demonstrates that dairy causes osteoporosis. It acidifies the blood, and the body leaches calcium out of the bones to buffer the pH change.

    3. My personal experience is that arthritis and mucus-related illness (mostly upper-respiratory) mostly went away. I’m not disease-free, but get sick much less often, have much less pain and much more energy.

    The one trouble with such diets is (like meditation) the results aren’t instantaneous. They take a couple of weeks. It just about takes that for your taste buds to adjust, too. Yes, your tastes change, just as they do if you stop drinking whole milk and start drinking skim. In a couple of weeks, the whole milk tastes like clotted cream.

    That said, you can eat tree bark if you have good salsa, I say.

    4. Climate change – There’s a (flawed) U.N. study showing the methane from livestock causes as much warming as all human transportation. It’s not much of a stretch to believe this. Methane is 23 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

    5. If you think feedlot beef is healthy, I recommend Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma for a look at the alternative. Essentially cows’ stomachs are designed to be basic, but feeding the corn (like feeding them Snickers) acidifies the gut, so the bacteria our stomachs are designed to kill with acid are not what we encounter. The cows are sick, often with ulcers that pierce their hides, and they’re in such a filthy environment it’s a miracle we don’t breed more drug-resistant e. coli.

    McDougall dismisses most meaty diets as cons. Take a look at their promoters v. WFPB guys here.

    You might also take a look at the 99-year-old vegan who was a heart surgeon until very recently. Notice the lack of Parkinsonism, and other age-related quavering in his voice and mannerisms.

    1. Croatoan

      Dr. Wareham, ONE 99 year old vegan, so what? My grandfather was just like him, he drank vodka and ate pork chops, died at 98 with full facilities. Not only did these people grow up in a time where there was less environmental toxicity, but they are only anecdotes.

      I do not care what works for these people, I care about what works for me.

      But do you know what links Wareham and my grandfather? They were both thin and did not eat a lot of calories. So maybe focus on how much people eat more than what they eat.

  24. Altandmain

    My view has always been that we need to transition to grass fed meat sources.

    Grass fed beef and other sources of meat are quite healthy.

    So too are eggs from chickens that have been allowed to forage and hunt for insects. Often you can tell from the more orange yolk (more pigments) and the larger size of the yolk. Factory farmed eggs are awful, while the grassfed ones are far better.

    Some diet thoughts
    Maybe it’s because I am a failed vegetarian (tried it and it made my health worse), but I am skeptical about the idea of vegetarian diets being more healthy.

    I think that the brutal truth may be that we have way overshoot the planet’s carrying capacity.

    The issues I see are:

    – Saturated fats, as the commentator above has noted, have been re-examined and are not likely to be the heart disease culprit than was once thought.

    – The issue with any study is that it tends to be observational in nature. It’s hard to control for every variable. What’s needed are double blind randomized controlled trials (very difficult to do, but the gold standard).

    – Vegetarian diets (and I’ve learned this one the hard way) often do lack a lot of key nutrients. B12 is the most well known, but you’ve got others like DHA (Omega 3 – Vegans usually take ALA which doesn’t work as well), and a few other products – liver for example has pre-formed Vitamin A (retinol vs beta carotene in plants). It is harder to get enough iron, zinc, creatine, carnosine, and vegan sources of Vitamin D are D2 from fungi (as opposed to D3 from lanolin found in sheep’s wool, which many Vegans are opposed to using). It’s not impossible to get these nutrients, but it’s more difficult. There are sometimes supplements you can buy (ex: DHA from algae and B12 supplements), but that would imply an unnatural diet entirely reliant on supplements to sustain.

    – Fish and consuming certain seafood (such as fish roe and bivalve mollusks) seem to have some pretty big health benefits. Actually, I’ve recommended to many vegans that they eat oysters and mussels, as they don’t have a nervous system to feel pain. They also don’t seem to have the negative environmental effects that meat raising does have.

    Personally, I’m solid on an omnivorous diet being optimal. Lots of dark leafy greens and meat, especially organ meats (we don’t eat very much liver in Western diets). I support a low to moderate amount of carbs. I also advocate for lots of fermented foods like kefir.

    I’m pretty skeptical of the China Study, as there have been other revised studies suggesting otherwise.

    Western diets seem to have a number of flaws that are not discussed often. An example is the lack of magnesium in the diet. This problem may be worsened by certain aspects, such as our high sugar and soda diet. Potassium may be another issue.

    I think that only some people can handle a 100% vegan diet. Most people cannot. We seem to all be somewhat different. Perhaps fermented foods can help. Another suggestion and please hold your nose – fecal microbiota transplant (look it up) from people with healthy gut bacteria.

    My thoughts
    I don’t think that anyone on NC thinks that factory farming is any good.

    The issue to me is, how to transition the existing factory farm industry into sustainable farming? The yield in grass fed meat is lower. I don’t know if technology has a miracle solution (ex: lab grown meat, which is so far very immature and unproven).

    Right now, where I stand is we do need at least some meat, but the existing system cannot be done. it is high carbon, responsible for soil depletion, antibiotic resistance, health problems among consumers, etc.

    A big challenge will be sustaining a high quality diet as resources are declining.

    1. Croatoan

      Any study that incorporates people with different genetics is flawed. PERIOD. This is where my field, Nutritional Genomics is excelling at finding answers.

    2. Paul Lebow

      “I think that only some people can handle a 100% vegan diet. Most people cannot. We seem to all be somewhat different. ”
      So far, only one person on this discussion, who had a rare genetic condition, might have trouble with some vegan food. You have no basis whatsoever for your claim. Animals get ALL their nutrients from plants.

      As disturbing as it might sound to some, factory farming is LESS damaging to the environment than grass fed, free range.

  25. John

    How about instead of veganism, people drastically reduce their red meat intake?

    I eat white meat once a week and red meat once a month. I still get to look forward to eating meat on occasion, so I don’t go completely crazy, but I’ve drastically reduced my carbon footprint.

    Why do we always have to be so extreme and all-or-nothing with everything? The problem with veganism is that people do it for a while and then give up because it’s too difficult (in America… it’s not so bad if you live in, say, India, which has amazing vegetarian food). If we could just do things in modern, we would have a much better chance of remaining within planetary boundaries.

  26. drumlin woodchuckles

    Way upthread, Paul Lebow said that “animal respiration is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions but the grain grown to feed the animals is an even larger contributor”.

    I can see saying that about the growing-grain part, especially if the grain in question is mainstream petro-corporate chemo-grain, but animal respiration itself? As in the breathing in and out of the animals? Am I understanding correctly what Paul Lebow means by “animal respiration”?

    1. Paul Lebow

      Yes, believe it or not, the environmental analysts who do the math must account for animal respiration – conversion of sequestered carbon to CO2. Its not insignificant. The emissions of Methane (a much more damaging greenhouse gas) from ruminants such as cows, is a very significant contributor to climate change.

      Read the UN FAO report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow” as well as the World Bank report by Goodland and Anhang (Google it).

      Animal agriculture uses 30% of the worlds land mass.

        1. Paul Lebow

          Yes, I am familiar with these supposed “takedowns” and “debunking”. Some blogger claims to be equal to a Ph.D. environmental analyst with a lifetime of experience and recipient of many academic awards.
          This is the problem with the web – its purely a game of bias seeking confirmation – like a drug.

          The problem with all of the other “socially acceptable” solutions to climate change (solar, wind, sequestration, reduced energy consumption, God forbid – nuclear, etc.. is that they are all too late and too expensive. I went vegan in a day at no cost – what’s your contribution?

          1. Peregrin

            A paper that argues for using the 20 year over the 100 GWP for methane but only makes the adjustment for livestock is hardly credible. Nor is one that argues the respiration is a net emission…see the IPCC’s guidelines on GHG accounting for the agricultural section (Chapter 10). But I take your point…you’ve decided what you want to believe.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I have to sign in for work just now, but this comment deserves consideration, analysis and comment.
        Maybe by me and if not by me than by somebody, surely. Maybe time will permit me to be the one to reply.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        The carbon dioxide which animals breath out can only come from the carbon-chain food-energy molecules they oxidize / metabolize within their own bodies. The only source that animals can get these multi-carbon metabolic-energy molecules from is from the food that they eat. The food plants that the animals eat creates these metabolic energy-food compounds with carbon dioxide which the plants take out of the air. That air-carbon is not sequestered. It is freely mobile. It cycles from the air to the plants to the animals and decomposers and back to the air.

        So how would sequestered carbon enter the bio-carbon cycle picture? One could fairly say that burning coal, gas and oil for artificial energy/matter inputs into growing plants fossil-subsidizes the plants into pulling down more air-carbon then they would on their own. So in that sense, animals are breathing out CO2 that they ingested because of fossil carbon burned to grow excess food. The answer to that is to ban the use of coal, gas and oil in gardening and farming and settle for whatever amounts of food can be produced on solar energy solely, alone and only.

        That applies to the kind of animal known as “people” also. 8 billion-and-counting people are breathing out a lot of carbon dioxide. They get it all from the food they ingest. If that food is grown with sequestered fossil carbon, then people are indirectly breathing out net-fossil carbon just as the other animals are. But if the input of fossil carbon energy into agriculture is forbidden, then humanimal respiration becomes a carbon net zero process just as other animal respiration would be in a zero-fossil-input situation.

      3. Paul Lebow

        Whoops – closer to 45%. That’s 70 BILLION land animals each year to feed your lust for blood and flesh. (And there’s worry about the several billion human’s impact?!) So all you city slickers are oblivious to what’s going on out there in the grasslands. Destruction of wildlife in general, mass killings of natural “predators”, species extinction. One can nit pick the extensive scientific studies based upon seat of the pants, golly gee, “analysis”, but in the end, people are just justifying their uncontrollable and destructive habits.

  27. drumlin woodchuckles

    The title and the article itself appear to be calling for 2 different things. The title says we can cut the overall world consumption of meat and dairy in half and avoid dangerous climate change. The article itself certainly appears to me to be saying that we have to cut overall world consumption of meat and dairy to absolute zero by all 8 billion-and-counting people in the world going strictly vegan. The title seems to lay out a more achievable goal than the article does.

    If we decide to cut our meat and dairy consumption in half, which half should we cut? Well . . . we should cut out the half that is causing the problem. If it is the animals which are eating corn/soy/grain/etc. which are causing the problem, then those are the animals we should stop raising and cut out of the global diet. I am suburby, not country, so all I know is what I read. If we outlawed the feedlotting of cows, pigs, etc.; and outlawed the mass-confinement-battery raising of chickens/turkeys/etc. . . . we might be banning more than half of the meat and dairy production. If so, then lets do that. If 20% of the meat and dairy is producible without mass grainfeeding, then we can settle for having that 20% and eliminate a huge greenhouse gas problem by eliminating that other 80% which is mass grainfed.

    With mass grainfeeding being driven out of the picture, would livestock on plants-in-place out in the field be merely a neutral factor? Or would they be a positive asset in the skycarbon reduction effort? A small hill of semi-hard agronomic science and a huge rising mountain of working-farmer anecdata tends to indicate ever more strongly with passing time that proper deployment and management of livestock increases skycarbon suckdown and soilcarbon buildup in the land under those livestock.

    I once attended a one-day seminar by Gabe Brown of North Dakota. I found it inspiring and hopeful. I will offer a link to a one-hour talk presented by Brown touching on the most abbreviated version of what he told us in detail. He runs a 5,000 acre operation on the edge of Bismark, North Dakota. By using an ever-evolving combination of no-till, multi-mixed cover-crop mixes between and around the annual cash crops, by leaving 3,000 of the acres in permanent pastures or native range, and by moving tightly bunched masses of livestock fairly quickly from carefully defined and bounded paddock to paddock to paddock to get partial eatdown of the plant-stands thereon and total trample-down of the plant-matter uneaten; he claims to be increasing the organic matter percentage on all his soils. And that by definition means he is increasing the amount of carbon in his soils. That is carbon which his plants are eating down out of the air and excreting down into the soil.

    The video takes about 60 minutes. I liked watching it because such things interest me. For those who would find watching 60 minutes of a farmer talking and showing photos, graphs, charts, etc. to be boring; I have noted down a few time-points on the time-bar one could go to for seeing certain punch-points punchily illustrated.

    0:38 –> picture of a chunk of forest soil before and after years of conventional growing to see the visual
    effect of burning out all the organic matter.
    19:15–> shows how his friend farmer Brandt in Missouri gets high yields withOUT tillage AND withOUT herbicides.
    21:25–> shows picture of a chunk of his soil after years of his program, see how carbon-rich dark.
    22:20–> tells how he realized Animal Impact on his soil and plants could speed up skycarbon suckdown
    and soilcarbon buildup if done right.
    24:03–> tells how he visited another farmer who was rebuilding topsoil faster than farmer Brown was, be-
    CAUSE of ADDing animals to the operation. That’s when farmer Brown started animals to HIS
    28:28–> Claims to show where/ how he can replant right through the smashdowned plant-mass withOUT
    even HAVing to use an herbicide.
    30:40–> in summer, grass-finishes livestock to size for sale withOUT grain.
    31:35–> Shows how he feeds his cows on the winter-dormant multi-species cover crop plantings all
    through the winter, withOUT grain.
    39:40–> shows barchart comparing measured soil presence of several mineral nutrients in soil under his
    program withOUT livestock as against WITH livestock as part of the program. Shows how the
    soil reached HIGHer levels of these nutrients WITH livestock on top of it. He explains the why
    and the how.

    Here is the link to the video.

    He says he invites scientists onto his land. He says any of his paying customers can come visit and see. Is he lying? So far no one has stepped forward to say he is lying. Is he lying about having more soil carbon now than when he got started? So far, nobody has stepped forward to make that claim. Is he the only one doing this? I read and hear that so far a few lonely thousand farmers are doing this, but some more are slowly adopting these methods. Others remain committed to yesterday’s failing sunset mainstream paradigm out of pride.

    If farmer Brown is being trutful AND correct, then paying to eat his carbon-storage beef/pork/chicken/etc. helps him to pay for sucking skycarbon DOWN and building soilcarbon UP. And if that really is what eating his beef really does help him to really do, then eating his beef becomes an active driver of skycarbon suckdown and global de-warming..

    1. Paul Lebow

      Well I believe it is well-documented that grain fed confined cattle have a significantly lower impact on greenhouse gas emission than “free range”. A recent extensive meta-study also concluded that, while it depends upon climate, grazing tends to remove organic carbon from the soils. The techniques described in the video, even if valid, are not easy to administer for the rest of the world. And don’t forget the copious amounts of water these animals consume (as we blame our droughts on suburban lawn waterers and car washers).

  28. drumlin woodchuckles

    Paul Lebow,

    I wrote a lengthy comment and then I think I hit a button wrong so it never even showed up. I will try again at some later time.

Comments are closed.