More than 50,000 U.N. officials, scientists, environmental advocates and a few heads of state will gather this coming week in Rio de Janeiro for a conference on sustainable development. They’re assembling 20 years after the first Earth Summit was held in the same city, and the goal now, as it was then, is to figure out how to cut dangerous greenhouse gases and help the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty. Or, to put it more starkly, how we can live ethically without threatening the ability of future generations to live at all.
That’s what’s on the agenda.
But what we want to know is: What’s on the menu? Specifically, will this large gathering on climate change be serving meat — whose production and consumption are major contributors to climate change?
We tried to find out. . . .
A 2006 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” called raising animals for food “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” Since then, climate researchers Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang have estimated that livestock and their methane-rich byproducts account for even more greenhouse gas emissions than the earlier report estimated — a whopping 51 percent. More conservative estimates say that meat accounts for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions.
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