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Stern Warning to go Vegetarian (but first eat the dog)

Conservative Home - Tuesday, 28th October 2009

Lord Stern, the pin-up economist of the climate hysteria movement, and author of of the Stern Report on the costs of global warming, has delivered himself of a new gem. He predicts that "eating meat could become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving".

Livestock farming has come under fire in recent years from environmental campaigners because methane from cattle and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. They seem to have forgotten that when humans first reached North America the plains were black with buffalo, and the savannahs of Africa with Wildebeest. This is called life, and the earth has been quite good at sustaining it for many hundreds of millions of years. They have also forgotten (if they ever knew) that compared to geological history, today's atmosphere is impoverished in terms of CO2, levels of which have been up to ten times higher than today's. And in those CO2-rich days, did we observe a "tipping-point", with "run-away global warming"? We did not. In fact we had the greatest ice-age in geological history.

Stern has a poor record in these matters. Although his report is frequently quoted, it is in fact an outlier amongst economic analyses of climate mitigation measures. Most reach the opposite conclusion -- that the cost of our proposed climate mitigation policies is likely to exceed any damage that climate change might do, even if the alarmists are right. If, as I believe, they're wrong, we are beggaring our grandchildren for no good reason at all. How did Stern get it so wrong? By swallowing the IPCC position wholesale; by accounting for the downsides of global warming while ignoring the up-sides; and above all by using a wholly unrealistic discount rate for future costs and benefits (the costs are mostly up-front, while the benefits -- if any -- are many years in the future).

But of course Stern is not the first one to raise concerns about meat-eating. The Chairman of the IPCC since 2002, Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, has been on the same tack for years -- not surprising, perhaps, seeing that in terms of faith he is a Hindu. Dr. Pachauri is often represented as a global authority on climate change, which is a bit bizarre when you look at his education record. He commenced his tertiary education at the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at Jamalpur, Bihar, and began his career at the Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi. He later received an Masters degree in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, in 1972, as well as a joint Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Economics in 1974. Nothing much there on climatology or atmospheric physics -- a level of unfamiliarity with the subject that he still shows to this day.

A new book by New Zealand authors Robert and Brenda Vale urges pet owners to "Eat the dog", since the carbon footprint of a year's dog-food is too awful to contemplate. The hysteria of the climate alarmists has gone from worrying, to pathetic, to richly comical. It's enough to make you order a fillet steak, medium rare, with a good portion of gratin dauphinois. Meantime I shall continue to patronise Mr. Chapman, who runs an excellent old-fashioned butcher's shop in Lutterworth High Street.