Skip navigation
Share via:

Pitch

We need a comprehensive strategy that does not rely on a single entity, but involves as many people and organizations as possible.


Description

Summary

The single most important thing that can be done to reduce consumption
and GHG emissions is a dietary shift for wealthy countries from
meat-based to plant-based, and preventing less developing countries
from adopting the unhealthy (for the environment and people) dietary
practices of the rich.  (E.g., the consumption of meat and even dairy
is grown greatly recently in China and the trend is expected to
continue.)  Since many people in developing countries aspire to eat
more like the US because they envy the greater wealth, the US has an
opportunity to lead by example by drastically reducing its consumption
of animal products to help thwart the rise in developing countries.


Category of the action

Reducing consumption


What actions do you propose?

One of the things that must be done is a major educational campaign to
give most people a very basic understanding of climate science and
nutritional science.  You cannot expect people to change their
behavior if they do not have any understanding of why they should!
Non-profit organizations at the local, regional, national and
international levels can help with this.  But government has a
responsibility too, especially with predominance of public education
of children.

In the US, national nutritional guidelines should not be the
responsibility of the USDA, which is charged with promoting the animal
agriculture industry; that is an inherent conflict of interest.
Another agency, perhaps CDC, should be responsible for nutritional
recommendations.


Government farm subsidies encourage the opposite of what is needed.
It lowers the cost of animal products from what these would otherwise
be.  The agricultural subsidies should be eliminated.  (If anything is
to be subsidized, it should be organic produce, but it is not.)

As consumption of animal products declines, the amount of farmland can
too.  Short-term carbon sequestration can be obtained through
converting farmland to protected forest.  Offer an incentive, such as
a cash payment for making the conversion.  Governments and non-profits
can also buy up farmland and convert it themselves.


One of the most important things that government can do is establish a
carbon tax on everything equal to the damage cost to provide the right
economic incentives.  This is the most economically efficient means of
internalizing externalities.

Also, people should be encouraged to have fewer children.  Policies
that encourage population growth should be changed, such as a tax
subsidy for each dependent child.  A tax break should be given instead
of those who delay or forgo having a child.  This is still most
important for wealthy countries, despite the fact that their birth
rate is much less than the developing world, since their per-capita
consumption is so much higher.


Who will take these actions?

Individuals, non-profit organizations, and governments (perferably all 3).

Individuals can become more knowledgeable and change their behavior
and diets to reduce GHGs emissions on their own, inspite of a lack of
government action.  But government can accelerate this as described above.


Where will these actions be taken?

Everywhere, but it is most important (in the short-term) for wealthy countries like the US.  But long-term, the currently developing countries will become more critical.


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?


What are other key benefits?

  • Improved human health.
  • Lower long-term costs.
  • Less pollution.
  • Less animal suffering.


What are the proposal’s costs?

(Cost estimates still TBD.)

There is actually very little cost involved in implementing most of
this.  In fact, long term this should be a net economic benefit,
because there would be far lower health costs if most ate a
whole-foods plant-based diet.  Also, to the extent that climate change
is mitigated, the costs of adaptation (which will eventually become
very large) and direct damages will be less in the long term.  Bad
farm subsidies represent an economic cost in themselves, so removing
them would remove that cost.  (There would be a transitional cost
after a long reliance upon the subsidies, but that is no reason to
perpetuate a harmful policy.  It is better to discontinue the
subsidies sooner than later.)

Except for the transient cost, the carbon tax need not add a cost to
the economy, since it could be made revenue neutral by returning the
money that is collected evenly to every person or by reducing other
tax rates.  The costs of collecting the tax are not significant.

Lower population growth would be a problem for Social Security since
it is an unfunded system.  But it already has this problem!


Time line


Related proposals


Fast Solution To Climate Change Is On Your Plate:

https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/25/planId/1301004


References

(To be added.)