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2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #50

Posted on 16 December 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death

The Earth cannot accommodate our need and greed for food. We must change our diet before it’s too late 

Mass Starvation Graphic: George Monbiot Guardian 

 Illustration: Thomas Pullin

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is all the food going to come from?

By the middle of this century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands. 

Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death, Opinion by George Monbiot, Guardian, Dec 11, 2017

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Dec 10, 2017

Mon Dec 11, 2017

Tue Dec 12, 2017

Wed Dec 13, 2017

Thu Dec 14, 2017

Fri Dec 15, 2017

Sat Dec 16, 2017

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Comments 1 to 39:

  1. Yes we have huge pressures on farmland and inefficient high meat consumption. We also have degraded unsustainable farming methods, especially large scale industrial.

    But ask yourself why. Its partly out of control population growth, and affluence leading to meat consumption, and agriculture driven by profit seeking unconstrained market forces that are skewed towards corporate interests, as opposed to the public good.

    The solutions are obvious. Stop population growth. Adopt smaller scale regenerative farming methods. Eat less meat, research shows low meat consumption is associated with longer life expectancy.

    Even the United Nations is promoting smaller farms based on permaculture here.

    Switch government subsidies from corn biofuels crops and large farmers, to smaller farmers using more sustainable agriculture. Have better legislation on responsible use of water resources, and soil management. This will be difficult in the current political climate of anti environmentalism, but it has to happen somehow or the planet is on a one way street to huge problems.

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  2. Heres some more news, important news. More dumb stuff from the Trump Administration, with no awareness of the importance of thinking widely and long term.

    "Trump 'will REMOVE climate change from the list of national security threats' "

    And Trump Administration wants to remove the words science based, evidence based, transgender and fetus and others from CDC (centre for disease control) documents. Can it become any more stupid, and small minded?

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  3. Monbiot is beyond wrong here. He looked at the problem and came up with the exact opposite conclusion.

    Here is what is happening:

    “As the small trickle of results grows into an avalanche — as is now happening overseas — it will soon be realized that the animal is our farming partner and no practice and no knowledge which ignores this fact will contribute anything to human welfare or indeed will have any chance either of usefulness or of survival.” Sir Albert Howard

    Animals were removed from the farm and began being raised in confinement. Their ecosystem function replaced by agrochemicals. The land degraded as a result.

    Now does Monbiot recommend returning the animals to the farm now that the foolishness of removing those animals is astonishingly clear? No. Instead blinded by an religious like vegan dogma, instead he wishes to eliminate farm animals almost entirely, dooming us in an irreversible spiral into ecosystem collapse.

    What makes me angry is that Monbiot has been explained this concept and he even claimed he understood: 

    I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly
    George Monbiot

    But here he is returning fully brainwashed yet again. Arrrrg

    You claim to be a scientist Monbiot. Why not simply refrain from even discussing the subject until you actually have learned enough about agricultural science to form an educated science based opinion?

    There is an untold number of ways to raise animals wrong. Why not actually learn about the proper way to raise them right before commenting?

    Meanwhile here is what a leading Nobel prize winning agricultural scientist has to say:

    “Yes, agriculture done improperly can definitely be a problem, but agriculture done in a proper way is an important solution to environmental issues including climate change, water issues, and biodiversity.”-Rattan Lal

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  4. Edit to above. That should read science communicator, not scientist. Monbiot is not even close to a scientist, but he is a science communicator.

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  5. Just a clarification, irrelevent to your main point. Lal is not a Nobel prizewinner, and is not listed on the Nobel prize website. Lal lists a 'Nobel certificate' on his CV, this was a document sent by the IPCC to people who made a major contribution to the IPCC report. The IPCC made the following statement on the issue:

    The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner . It would be correct to describe a scientist who was involved with AR4 or earlier IPCC reports in this way: “X contributed to the reports of the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.”
    The IPCC leadership agreed to present personalized certificates “for contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC” to scientists that had contributed substantially to the preparation of IPCC reports.

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  6. George Monbiot is sorta like the British version of Paul Krugman and vice versa.

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  7. Climate science, and the endless stream of attempts to dismiss or discredit it, has exposed many cases that make it clear that 'Austerity measures are required on those who have Won or are Winning by getting away with pursuing understandably damaging and unsustainable actions'.

    The UN Sustainable Development Goals remain the best presentation of the developed understanding of what needs to change for humanity to have a future that is constantly improved, and the solution isn't 'developing more artificial ways of doing things'.

    Allowing people who 'Win any way they can get away with' to have any influence on 'what is promoted and what is discouraged - what leadership is about', has clearly only ever developed an increasing stream of damaging ultimately unsustainable actions.

    What amazes and disgusts me is the easy ability of supposedly smart wealthy powerful people (winners of the competitions in the games people play) to wilfully do something understandably damaging - pursuing Private Interests that are understandably damaging and ultimately unsustainable - wilfully and almost gleefully pursuing personal or regional or tribal benefit at the expense of the achievement of Global Sustainable Development.

    Solutions to the population problem 'require' freeing women from perceptions of 'needing a husband to survive', and ensuring the Public provision of adequate education and health care and Public provision of old age care everywhere. Those measures are proven to reduce birth rates. They eliminate the enslavement of women to men, and eliminate the need for the men to 'have a son who survives' (Henry VIII and his wives would have been a very different story if this was correctly understood at that time), and eliminate the need for elderly people to have surviving children, particularly male children (that need leads to massive over-birth as men pursue the creation of multiple sons).

    Another significantly beneficial part of the population problem solution is the 'Wealthiest - the Winner/Leaders' living the lowest impact lives because they understand the importance of 'Leading Things That Way'. Those Good Winners/Leaders would also charitably help the less fortunate people improve their lives, including allowing the less fortunate to be the sole beneficiaries of damaging unsustainable activity as they transition through a development period. That is simply what is required by Kyoto and the Paris Agreement. It is what the Fighting is all about, with undeserving wealthier people refusing to better understand how far things have developed in the wrong direction, how much developed perception of prosperity and opportunity has to be 'corrected', how much 'Austerity' has to be imposed on the current day Winners/Leaders contrary to their regional or tribal Private Interest. Many who Won/Win competitive advantage by being willing to get away with more damaging and unsustainable pursuits would consider that to be 'Austerity Measures Imposed on Them' and fight viciously, any way they can get away with, against 'Being Corrected'.

    And the trouble-makers include economists who refuse to critically evaluate what is going on guided by the Good Reason Objective of Sustainable Development. Many of them claim that their measures of economic growth showing ever increasing growth can only be extended into the future by the freedom of Private Interest pursuits that generate more of what they measure to be growth. They refuse to add the 'complexity' of evaluating whether any of the perceived growth is an unsustainable and damaging development that ultimately will be understood to be of 'no future value', actually become undeniably seen to have been massively harmful and ultimately unsustainable, like imposing Austerity of Public assistance programs on poorer nations that are struggling to develop (or imposing that same nonsense in the supposedly more developed ones that actually should be imposing targeted Austerity Measures on many of their Wealthy Powerful - the undeserving and damaging Winners).

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  8. Monbiot and Krugman still get more things right than they get wrong, and are at least prepared to take a stand.

    However I don't really see vegetarianism as the right answer. I do see a case for lower meat consumption, and if combined with fish you get the right amount of protein.

    Some land can only practically be used for cattle farming as opposed to crops, but we have to be careful cattle farming and dairy farming doesn't start to crowd out crops. This just wouldnt make much sense.

    Its a complicated issue to do with higher affluence enabling more meat consumption and answers to the problem are difficult, but promoting a sensible balanced diet  would help, and avoiding fashionable but scientifically dubious high meat diets like atkins and paleo. 

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  9. Just adding to the discussion on population.The big factors in lower birthrates are known to be reduced infant mortality and providing economic security and this comes from affluence and good public healthcare and education, and womens rights (as OPOF says)

    However  easy avaiability of contraception is also a huge factor. Birth rates in Africa have dropped sharply in areas with good access to contraception, even in poor communities.  

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  10. In addition to nigelj' comment about the benefits of availability of contraception, it is also undeniable that assistance to women in poverty must include 'safe abortion' as an option.

    That reality, and other unjust factors, led the Unite the Right temporary leaders in Canada (the Harper Conservative Government) to attempt to secretively de-fund KAIROS. Even though KAIROS met the qualification requirements for government funding, the Conservative Minister Bev Oda famously hand-wrote "Not" onto the assessment. Then the Unite the Righters, right up to the Prime Minister told a variety of fibs claiming they had not unjustly and secretively 'acted politically' to defund KAIROS. Ultimately Bev Oda left her Ministers role, but remained an elected representative long enough to 'qualify for maximum pension' then resigned before the next election. And yes, the Unite the Right temporary leaders in Canada also defunded climate science and any other science that may expose the unacceptablility of popular and profitable pursuits of short-term gain for a few to the detriment of all others (including tax cuts for the richest and claims that nothing should be done by Canada regarding climate change, mainly because Canada was such a small player (less than 2% of global total, but in the top 10 of biggest contributing nation and with nearly the highest per-capita impacts) until 'what was required was known for certain - and would be be certain to be cheaper and more profitable than what was able to be gotten away with).

    And the cases of unacceptable Private Interests causing damage to the Public Interest of sustainable advancement of global humanity just keep being created. Madness - excused as things done in pursuit of a better result for everyone with nothing substantiating the claim other than temporary profitability and perceptions of growth and opportunity, or Trumped-up regional and tribal popularity.

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  11. nigelj,

    Amazing that you would be concerned about animal agriculture crowding out crops, when right now 1/2 the main commodity crop production in the USA is for biofuels! 70%+ if you count the bad ways to raise animals.

    Come on now, this is far far worse. Of course animal husbandry has priority over ethanol production and feeding feedlots and other CAFOs! Particularly if those animals are raised on a newly restored prairie grassland biome!

    Yes crowd that excess over production of corn and soy that is produced in quantities so huge it would be impossible for every man woman and child on the whole planet to possibly ever eat it all.

    It must be crowded out! It is the primary problem! That land needs to be rested from commodity grain production! But the farmer still needs to make a living. Raising animals on restored and regenerating land is how you do what I spoke about in post #3.

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  12. Red Baron @11, you haven't read what I said.  I did allude to the fact that corn biofuel crops are a foolish thing in post 1.  

    Maybe  that corn biofuels land should be replaced partly with other crops for normal consumption, and some for animals. You appear to be aiming for a balanced, natural sort of integrated system which would make sense to me. I think we get into trouble with crazy extreme experiments and monocultures etc.

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  13. I meant replace corn biofuels crops with a mixture of other crops and grazing land  for cattle and sheep, whatever. And a few chickens and pigs, free range.

    Must stop trying to type while watching tv.

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  14. RedBaron,

    Everything you say about the USA is correct 'about the USA' and other nations like the USA.

    This is a global problem. And what nigelj points out has happened/is happening in many nations, particularly in South America where beef production is Big Business fueling the elimination of rain forest and displacing many people who could live relatively self-sufficiently if they did not have the environment they need to be self-sufficient taken from them for 'Big Private Economic Interests'.

    A similar thing happened in China with many people displaced from self-sufficient living by the reserviour of the massive geo-engineering project that is the Three Gorges Dam.

    And displacing people from self-sufficient living is one of the insideous things that develops because of the absurd way economists measure reduction of poverty. They actually consider a self-sufficient person to be earning Zero and hence be in extreme poverty. Displacing such a person to live in a hovel on the perimeter of a city and earning $1/day is actually evaluated to be an improvement. and if the income of such a displaced person rises high enough that person is considered to have had 'their life raised out of extreme poverty'.

    The World Bank has recently increased the extreme Poverty line to $1.90/day and higher extreme Poverty line numbers for  as reported by NRP. Quoting the NPR report, "...the World Bank has <also> come up with two new "poverty line" figures for the world's middle-income countries: $3.20 a day for lower middle income nations (like Egypt, India and the Philippines) and $5.50 a day for upper middle income nations (like Brazil, Jamaica and South Africa)."

    Before that increase, the World Bank had set earning below $1.25/day income level as extreme Poverty in the 15 poorest nations. And as  nations become wealthier the measure of extreme poverty goes up to $2.50/day based on the average of all nations except the bottom 15.

    In the book “Seven Bad Ideas - How mainstream economists have America and the World” by Jeff Madrick (published in 2014) includes the point that though economic development measures show reduction of people living below $1.25/day and claimed as proof hat what is going on is Good, there has been no reduction of the number of people living below $2.50/day.

    So the better understanding of the World Bank means that even the previous economist evaluations claiming reduction of poverty by counting the damaging displacement of reasonably self-sufficient people as a 'part of the measured benefit' actually did not 'reduce poverty'. Look for reports where that 'correction of understanding is explained'. My bet is they will be difficult to find, and they will not be part of the basis for changes of mind about actions by many of the current day Winners/Leaders who have a history of claiming that any and all economic activity is fundamentally good and should be promoted and encouraged even if it can be understood to be unsustainable and damaging, because the net-result 'as determined by ecomomists' is a 'positive one' and there is popular regional or tribal support for the activity.

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  15. Book title correction again (copy pasted the wrong one from my previous comments on another OP)

    “Seven Bad Ideas - How mainstream economists have damaged America and the World”

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  16. Recommended supplemental reading on whats wrong with economics, and how to fix it, by Joseph Stiglitz. He also understands the environment and how ot fits into things.

    The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe (2016)
    The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them (2015)
    Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress (2014)
    The Price of Inequality (2012)
    Freefall (2010)
    The Three Trillion Dollar War (2008)
    Stability with Growth (2006)
    Making Globalization Work (2006)
    Fair Trade for All (2005)
    New Paradigm for Monetary Economics (2003)The Roaring Nineties (2003)
    Globalization and Its Discontents (2002)

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  17. @14 One Planet Only Forever,

    It would be a mistake to think regenerative agriculture isn't a scientific advance for ALL countries.

    Yes I used the US as an example of the worst of the worst with our purposely designed wasteful Ag systems. We are the best at wasteful systems because we are about the best at almost everything we really try hard at doing. Since we have been pumping many billions of dollars yearly into a system purposely designed to be wasteful from the start, we have gotten really really good at it. No one can even come close to the destructive power. We have turned agriculture into Scorched Earth policy. We have essentially weaponised agriculture. We do that sort of thing better than any country in the world.

    A reflection on the lasting legacy of 1970s USDA Secretary Earl Butz

    However, the regenerative agricultural science advances are usable everywhere and improve economies, soil sequestration, feed the hungry, yields etc etc etc everywhere. Here is a great example of the exact opposite spectrum: In this case it provides just as big or bigger a benefit to traditional subsistance farmers as it does to developed industrial farmers.

    Rangelands Rehabilitation and Carbon Credits in Kenya


    And don't think it stops there either. Every technology level between is equally improved. This is because it is a biological systems science advancement. It is capable of being applied across the board. Not just animals either. 

    India's rice revolution

    The System of Rice Intensification (SRI)…
    … is climate-smart rice production


    Are you noticing a theme yet? More food is produced, not less. The farmers benefit tremendously as much or more than anyone else. Costs to produce are actually cheaper not more expensive. Land fertility gets restored. And above all is an AGW mitigation technique.

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  18. Red Baron,

    Large scale, industrial, Beef production is a problem. And the volume of beef nigelj is referring to is unlikely to be able to be responsibly produced through regenerative farming. And I was pointing out how damaging to many other ways of living the large scale beef production in South America is - even without the USA nonsense of corn grown as feed for cattle as well as for ethanol.

    And regenrative practices that sequester CO2 are a brilliant change of food production methods ... made even better by limiting the amount of beef production in the program.

    And more hands-on human-physical management, rather than automated powered machine operations, would potentially provide more produce per hectare with even less mechanical energy consumption.

    The entire human population can easily be well-fed, as long as the wealthiest responsibly lead by limiting their consumption to a low-impact lifestyle and using their influence to ensure that adequate amounts of good food gets to everyone.

    And that is where the problem lies, the trouble-makers fib (misleading marketing) to excuse their lack of interest in responsibly limiting their behaviour. And just like bullies they gather their crowds of wanna-be-Bully-Winners to vote for/support their understandably unacceptable desires/behaviour.

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  19. This is at best a temporary solution.  Even at 7.5 billion people, it seems we have way more demand for resources than the Earth can sustainably provide.  Sure we can act more sustainably, but what happens when we reach 10 billion?  15 billion? There is a breaking point no matter what we do if we refuse to address population growth.  It's not easy, China tried, and failed.  AGW will just make it worse.

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  20. knaugle,

    Achieving all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is indeed essential for humanity to have a future.

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  21. We are polluting the planet, and using up mineral resources incredibly fast. Many materials can be recycled many times, - but not all. We come up against hard resource limits eventually.

    The causes are near exponential population growth, and gdp growth

    The solution is phase down to zero gdp growth economy, and stop population growth. We may even need a smaller population than todays numbers, if you want decent consumption levels sustainable long term.

    It's slow reducing population growth rates, so the other factors are very important like slower gdp growth, renewable energy etc.

    UN development goals are definitely the right way.

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  22. One Planet Only Forever

    There is no "yeah buts". Regenerative ag works at any scale in any country in developed and developing technologies and at every volumn. You have this fixation with trying to make beef production a villian. It isn't. There is no down side. Raise it correctly and instead of 10x the harm, it becomes 10x the benefit. The cow is the great multiplier, both the biggest villian done wrong and the best hero done right. It is because of the rumen. It is designed to recycle hard to digest plant material in large volumns. If the land needs large quantities of plant material and nutrients recycled, then the cow becomes the hero every bit as much as it becomes the villian when instead of hard to digest plant material is used and instead high quality expensive crops are purposely wasted. Either way it isn't all about the cow anyway. There are multitudes of crops and food animals!

    Recycling beneficial plant debris? good x 10

    Wasting perfectly good grains grown as crops? bad x 10

    “The number one public enemy is the cow. But the number one tool that can save mankind is the cow. We need every cow we can get back out on the range. It is almost criminal to have them in feedlots which are inhumane, antisocial, and environmentally and economically unsound.” Allan Savory

    I have gone over this so many times on so many threads they asked me to just post the evidence all in one place and simply refer back to it. Otherwise the threads bogged down.

    Can we reverse global warming?


    What reaction can you do to remove methane?

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  23. Red Baron,

    The problem with Beef is more than the global warming impact assessment, just like the problem with burning fossil fuels is more than just the global warming aspects.

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  24. Dr. Jeff Masters reviews a book on sea level rise called The Water Will Come.  It is written by a Jouralist but Dr Masters rates it highly.  Just the review is interesting.  Miami gets three chapters (out of twelve).

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  25. I agree with OPOF, the question of beef is not just about one thing.It requires weighing up several things as follows:

    In defence of meat: I know Red Baron is coming from the angle of maintaining large prairie types of cattle grazed grasslands, because its natural, and leads to deep carbon rich soils. This is good for the climate, and because a lot of this land can only really be used for cattle anyway, unless you throw enormous irrigation and fertiliser resources at it, in a desperate and dubious attempt to grow crops.

    Meat is also a rich source of iron and protein, and lets face it people nothing tastes as great as a grilled steak.

    The case against meat: On the other hand, meat is essentially an inefficient use of resources, and too much meat can cause certain cancers. We also dont want an absurd situation where huge quantities of land are used for cattle and their feedcrops, which starts to crowd out other crops and make basic cereals expensive. It's also not really feasible to try to revert to the early hunter gatherer period of 20,000 years ago of vast tracts of grasslands and wild cattle roaming, and no human crops. (Although red baron possibly dreams of this in his sleep)

    Clearing vast tracts of rainforest for cattle grazing has a lot of detrimental effects to me.

    The verdict: So what am I saying? I sure dont think we all have to become vegeterian, but keeping meat consumption low to moderate makes sense.

    There's probably a sensible balance, or optimal balance between crop lands and cattle grazing. If we have good environmental policies, education and laws in general terms, particularly in respect of agriculture we will find that balance without having to try to pick a number and impose it.

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  26. The bottom line for me regarding Beef production:

    I support any actions that are consistent with, and supportive of, achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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  27. From everything I've read I conclude that it's much better for one's health to eat small quantities of beef.  My intake is 250 to 300 g per week.  I'm guessing that this is quite low.  So what it boils down to is that if everyone adhered to a healthy diet the demand for beef cattle would be low.  Even so, I agree with RedBaron that it has to be done right.

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  28. Digby Scorgie @27, from what I have read high red meat consumption can cause problems with cancer risk, although the increase was moderate increase nothing too drastic. But obviously its still a concern. I have also read research that low meat consumption in general (all types of meat) is associated with longer life.

    But you got me curious about quantities of beef, so according to this article below the average intake in the UK is 90 grams a day, and the latest health  recommendation is 70 grams per day,  so  your intake looks low to me. I would actually eat even less but mainly because I prefer taste of chicken and I'm going thru a chicken curry phase.

    "Moderation in all things" is perhaps the answer to many problems.

    I agree low beef consumption gets cattle numbers looking sensible, and cattle farming has to also be done right. We have problems with rivers and over stocking etc. Hopefully there's a clever way of solving it that is fair to everyone concerned. I would like to think we can find that answer.

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  29. Digby Scorgie, sorry I got the numbers a bit wrong. The article says "That’s why the Department of Health advises people who eat more than 90 grams (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day to cut down to 70 grams, which is the average daily consumption in the UK."

    I'm assuming of course NZ is similar. And your consumption is still looking low.

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  30. Digby and Nigel,

    I have learned similar things in reviewing published research regarding protein and meat consumption.

    Though there are a variety of results because investigating complex interactions is, well, Complex, my take-away understanding regarding Beef consumption, open to new results from more robust research, are:

    • Do not eat more than 4 oz (100 g) of beef (or any other meat), in a meal. The human body is unlikely to extract any benefit from a larger consumption in a meal.
    • Only eat beef a few times a week. There are health risks to eating too much red meat. You should diversify the other parts of your diet in a way that ensures you are getting adequate nutrition like iron - Without taking pills.
    • Severely limit consumption of processed beef such as sausage or corned-beef. This category of meat products seems to aggravate the health risks of eating beef. Probably wise to minimize consumption of any processed meats (like ham). And what humans 'think is appetizing' needs to change to maximize the consumption of every edible nutrient providing part of animals grown for consumption in ways that are 'healthy'.
    • Definitely pay more for a good cut of beef to BBQ. Since you are only eating 100 g, the expensive stuff is not that expensive. And keep the BBQ temperature low and slow cook the meat. It will be more tender and will have less of the harmful mutated protiens that are created by high-heat cooking.

    Everyone following the first two pieces of advice would dramatically reduce the amount of beef (or other meat) that 'needs' to be produced.

    And following the 3rd piece of advice could reduce the energy intensity of the meat that is consumed. And reduced energy consumption is an important aspect of achieving the required climate action as well as many of the other Sustainable Develoment Goals.

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  31. OPOF @30

    Yes, so the conclusion is clear:

    (1)  Eating much less beef is very good for your health — and doing so reduces the demand for beef cattle, which reduces the impact on the planet.

    (2) Farming beef cattle properly reduces the impact on the planet even further.

    (3) It won't happen.  Sigh!

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  32. And the point most of you are missing is that if the method changes to where the raising of beef (and other animals) is beneficial to the land instead of destructive, and they regenerate and increase resources rather than deplenish them, then everything you guys are saying about reducing beef production has the opposite effect there. Less production means less land gets healed, less water to replenish criticle aquafers and springs rivers etc..., less wildlife, less AGW mitigation. All because you blame the cow and not the manager of the humans. It is denialism every bit as much as AGW  denialism.

    As for health effects, same there too, but that is off topic. Just suffice to say that management of the cow has everything to do with ALL the negative impacts.

    There is no down side to changing how we do agriculture to regenerative carbon farming...especially  beef. No other technique for sequestering massive quantities of stable carbon deep in the soil profile at rates high enough to reverse AGW even comes close.

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  33. Digby @31, I'm not so sure. Get a few 'celebrities' like Kim Kardashian going vegetarian, or even just  low meat consumption, and eventually the whole younger generation will follow like lemmings.

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  34. Red Baron @32, in reality  the best we are likely to see is to stop a huge global increase in beef production. If people eat less beef,  remember population is still going to be increasing for some time,  so the numbers of beef cattle might freeze, but are unlikely to drop sharply. So there will still be plenty of beef cattle. Relax.

    I eat a mixture of beef, chicken, and fish. Moderation in all things. Sounds 'trite' but it makea lot of sense as Im sure you would realise. I have learned the lesson from bitter experience.

    There's no doubt in my mind  permaculture has multiple benefits and should be promoted. Good luck with your cause.

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  35. RedBaron,

    The research I am aware of regarding meat consumption and health may change with new research into the changes that come about from corrections of unsustainable developed practices. I understand the health problem of the quicker cheaper and therefore more profitable way beef is fed just before being slaughtered, combined with the riskier quicker work done by cheaper workers in the slaugherhouse that often occurs (all because of the power of pursuit of profit to over-rule doing things more responsibly, less harmfully, less risk of a harmful consequence).

    I am open to changing my mind based on any new learning that is consistent with, and supports, the acheivement of all of the Sustsinable Development Goals. Right now, my understanding is that reduction of Beef production, along with corrections of the way it is done, are required (as well as changes/reductions to other meat production/harvesting).

    I also see no evidence that Beef production for meat consumption is a superior way to deliver food for humans. So there would need to be some pretty amazing changes regarding Beef from permaculture to make it a Winner from the perspective of efficiency of delivery of human nutrition.

    However, I also do not see any harm in a responsibly limited amount of beef production. All things that 'are not harmful in moderation' are OK.

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  36. OPOF @35, beef cattle grazing (and sheep) done in the free range way does appear to have very considerable potential in encouraging deep carbon rich soils, and this makes it very significant for climate change as a carbon sink. The last IPCC report stated this.

    However IMO there are problems with devoting truly huge areas to cattle farming. Its unlikely to feed a population of 5 - 10 billion because its inefficient, and build up of carbon rich soils is a very slow process that cannot stop dangerous climate change process over the next 20 - 50 years, only renewable energy etc can do this. Soils can only mop up excess carbon on multiple century time scales.

    So I can't see a case for devoting truly vast areas of the planet to cattle farming, unless we fail to stop dangerous climate change and are in deep trouble as a result. I can see a case for keeping reasonable areas of cattle grazing, and farming them better.

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  37. RedBaron @ 32

    Do I understand correctly?  Properly farmed beef cattle result in an increased ability of the land to sequester carbon.  Such farming can therefore be considered a method for sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  The fact that people can eat the meat is almost incidental.

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  38. @37

    Exactly. In one respect it doesn't even matter who or what eats them. Excepting people do need to eat and farmers do need to sell food to make a living themselves. But ruminants are part of a artificial agricultural biome that when functioning fully can sequester 5-20 tonnes CO2/ha/yr + or more. It also restores the functionality of the water cycle replenishing critically desertified areas. It also is a net sink for methane.

    Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical,
    physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie

    Effect of grazing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho

    Liquid carbon pathway unrecognised

    Soils as sources and sinks for atmospheric methane

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  39. In all this discussion we are forgetting a difficult issue. More beef and dairy cattle equals more methane production.

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