26 October 2009

Mixed Messages

From the Times, several mixed messages from Lord Stern:

People will need to consider turning vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.

In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

Then comes this rather embarrassing admission,
Lord Stern, who said that he was not a strict vegetarian himself, was speaking on the eve of an all-parliamentary debate on climate change.
He also explains that the magnitude of effort is enormous:
He said that he was deeply concerned that popular opinion had so far failed to grasp the scale of the changes needed to address climate change, or of the importance of the UN meeting in Copenhagen from December 7 to December 18. “I am not sure that people fully understand what we are talking about or the kind of changes that will be necessary,” he added.
But, I thought it was a postage stamp per day?


  1. Dr Pielke,

    Bit more than a postage stamp per day if this quote is accepted at face value:

    "....a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases."

    Always nice when the True Believers telegraph the real agendas behind the syrupy words.

  2. More evidence, if we needed it, that the climate scare is about social engineering. Rich man Stern, is vice-chairman of IDEACarbon and author of the "alarmist and incompetent" (says Richard Tol) Stern Review - anyone see a conflict of interests here? So Stern isn't a vegetarian, and Rich Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the UK's Climate Change Committee, admitted that he has twice the 'carbon footprint' of the average person, such as myself. Anyone who is poor, and not insulated from insane climate policies, buy into this nonsense?

  3. Hmm...let's see...

    Lord Stern of Brentford is a loon? Check.

    Lord Stern of Brentford is a hypocritical loon? Check.

    Lord Stern of Brentford is a totalitarian hypocritical loon? Check.

    It's a trifecta!

    Really we ought to thank him for so blithely displaying the naked desire for power and control that animates the "radical" arm of the debate.

  4. Don't worry. When those who have marginal incomes have to spend more and more of it to heat their homes, they won't have any money for luxuries like meat.

  5. I think perhaps the "meat" thing has been oversimplified. I think the water impact of raising chickens in Brazil, or cattle on a cow calf operation in Wyoming (without feedlots) might be substantially different. You have to consider not only that animals drink water, but the water that wouldn't be drunk in their absence would be available for some other (more important and less carbon-impacting need). Not to speak of what other uses or economic values could be produced by the grasslands of the world- in North America or Asia..I guess we would be asking those people to give up their historic practices and way of life.

  6. If it were forbidden to argue for changes in global consumption or behavioral patterns until one's own behavior is perfect, then nothing will ever change.


  7. -6-Bart

    I agree with your sentiment, however the problem here is one of optics. This is not about Stern the man, but a profoundly mixed message being advocated. From a pragmatic standpoint, Stern's mixed message and your rationalization of it are not a recipe for effective advocacy, regardless of the deeper ethical considerations.

  8. Would not be surprised to find that IPCC's Chairman Rajendra Pachauri also is not a strict vegetarian, or that he continues to wear leather shoes or other beef by-products. Perhaps, Pachauri and Lord Stern of Brentford should collaborate on a stratagem for Copenhagen over some fine Beefeaters dry gin.

  9. Roger,
    If you agree with my sentiment, I guess you would also argue that the mixed message is primarily due to the journalist choosing to highlight Stern not being vegetarian?

    I agree with you that the message to change our behavior is strongest when the messager also enacted said behavior. But it should not be a 'conditio sine qua non' for making such statements or appeals.

    Brian: I remember having read that Pachauri is striclty vegetarian. Don't quote me on it though.


  10. Re 'a postage stamp per day': bear in mind that with increases in fuel prices, along with the offsets needed to pay for the paper used to make the stamp, the first class mail rate will be going up after cap'n'trade is passed!

  11. The Lord Stern Postage Stamp is clearly the answer!

  12. I guess you would also argue that the mixed message is primarily due to the journalist choosing to highlight Stern not being vegetarian?
    The mixed message is primarily due to Stern advocating a vegetarian diet and not following it. The fact that journalists will be journalists and report factual information is a secondary cause of the mixed message.

    As long as the primary fact exits, journalists are going to be journalists, and the public will notice the mixed message.

  13. Those who promote what they purport to be climate mitigation strategies ONLY advocate these strategies to the extent that THEY (in their naïve fantasies) are not PERSONALLY inconvenienced or expensed. Al Gore is the perfect example. But there are millions more.

    George Carlin saw through their hypocrisy.

  14. It is incumbent upon ANYBODY who thinks AGW is such a crisis that they MUST impose their will upon the rest of us through force of law to -- AT A MINIMUM -- reduce their own personal carbon footprint below that of the average citizen of their own country BEFORE they even CONSIDER pimping on behalf of their legislative tyranny.

    And, even then, I will still oppose their tyranny -- primarily because they are DEAD WRONG in their premise!

    For the record, my carbon footprint -- which I do not care one FIG about -- is probably well below HALF of the national average.

  15. Lucia,
    Would you advocate that people should not argue for changes in global consumption or behavioral patterns unless their own behavior is perfect?

  16. People argue for changes should at least show a genuine attempt to do what they prescribe. Otherwise it is just the old "do what I say, not what I do" mentality. And very few behaviour is as counterproductive and hated by others as hypocrisy.

  17. Bart-I don't care how they behave themselves, no one should argue for "changes in global consumption or behavioral patterns". It is just wrong to deign to determine how people ought to behave. What would you say if someone wanted to "argue for changes in behavior" as far as how people behave sexually?

    We all see what happens when the Pope says "to avoid AIDS, save it for marriage"-raucous disapproval of good advice. And yet when such BS as "save the planet-go veg" gets pushed, were is the indignation of "pushing morality" on people? No where to be found!

  18. Our--
    No. But why do you ask?

    I simply pointed out that your notion that the primary responsibility for the mixed message lies with journalists is incorrect. Stern is sending out a mixed message by talking a talk he prefers to not walk. He has the primary reponsibility for the mixed message he sends out.

    I did not condemn Stern for his mixed message but listners on the receiving end are going to notice that Stefn advocates they do something he elects not to do himself. Because the message is mixed, it's likely many listeners will will decide what's good for Stern is good for them. They'll ape his talk for action and also ape his decision not to actually take the actions he advocates.

  19. Bart,

    Not sure of your intent with:

    "...advocate that people should not argue for changes in global consumption or behavioral patterns unless their own behavior is perfect?..." ?

    Initial reaction to eyeballing this is,

    knock yourself right out if you want to proselytize altering certain individual choices to a global audience; but leading by example might seem less hypocritical in making the argument to those who might listen.

    However, as one of the main points we are talking about Stern mooting is that the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen should, per his preference, arrive at outcomes that will drive large sections of the global food industry into extinction by punitive taxation,

    is your point that seeking enforcement of global political and social agendas should not be judged on the individual proponents' personal behaviour ??

    Can we start with a contrary position of - one vote here for no imposition of global social engineering regimes at all, and I don't care if the proponent is Al Gore, Nick Stern or Mahatma Gandhi ? Basis the old maxim - all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  20. The minority practicing the global warming religion, including its various rituals and sacrifices, should stop trying to impose it/them on the rest of us. Stern is a factually challenged alarmist fool. Atmospheric methane concentration isn't following the IPCC projected trajectory. And, how do we feed 6 billion people by taking meat out of the equation?

  21. Roger, are you saying that you think HR 2454/S 1733 is grossly insufficient, or are you simply noting that Stern would probably say they're insufficient?

  22. OK, so Lord Stern is a hypocrite. Does that mean that Western meat consumption is idyllic and worthy of mimicry? Please. The hyperbole of those who think vegetarianism is some sort of affront to their "rights" is laughable. How about this, do you think you eat more meat than your ancestors? And if the answer is yes, which it should be, then maybe you might want to avoid another cheeseburger. Jeez.

  23. BTW Paul,

    Do you think that more people can be feed with meat than without? You must not be paying much attention. It takes grains to fatten beef etc, and I'm not sure but I think the ration is something like 10 calories of grain for every calorie of meat.

  24. -21-The Cunctator

    I don't think is referencing US policy, but the challenge in general.

    But on your question, I don't think that cap and trade is insufficient, it is worse. I think it is a bit like bring a set of construction tools to open heart surgery -- it is just not the right approach for the challenge -- if that challenge is to accelerate decarbonization of the economy toward some stabilization target decades in the future.

  25. Po- it is not a given that grains are needed to fatten beef. That is a function of the system certain people in this country and others are currently using. Cattle are naturally eaters of grass. You can buy grass fed beef even in this country. Just google "grass fed beef."

    My comment was that there are a lot of ways of growing and feeding food animals in this world, both developing and industrialized, with different environmental effects. In many dry grassland ecosystems, it's not like you can just convert to crops. Take many parts of Wyoming or Colorado, for example,parts of Africa, Asia, etc.
    So to make some kind of global claim that "meat is bad for the environment" is kind of silly- plant agriculture can also be bad for the environment- but people have to eat and in many countries they have to produce income with the land they have and not the land others might wish they had.

  26. Sharon F.

    Its not silly to suggest that we eat too much meat. Meat is not the most efficient way to feed folks. That does not mean that we shouldn't have "grass feed beef" but the amount of land (public I might add) that it would take to produce the amount of beef, chicken, pork, etc is not feasible at current comsumption levels. I believe that people should eat what they want, but they may have to recognize that their consumption levels are subsidized by a tremendous amount of energy, which seems to be the focus of things right now, eh? Sure, plant agriculture can be bad for the environment too, but as you pointed out with "grass feed beef" there are better ways to do that as well. Historically speaking, I would say that we have never eaten as much meat as we do now. Its not helping things.

  27. My point was it's not the beef, chicken or pork, that is "subsidized by a tremendous amount of energy". But the way we choose to raise the beef chicken or pork. If the pig is in my backyard and eats garbage or ranges in the woods and eats acorns- don't see a big carbon footprint.
    If you mean "industrialized meat production has negative environmental impacts" and "meat is likely to be more expensive and less available if we were stricter about reducing the negative environmental impacts." I would agree.
    If you said "those of us with money should preferentially choose to support ranchers and farmers whose practices are less environmentally damaging" I agree.
    You say that "meat is not the most efficient way to feed folks." Eating is not all about efficiency- nor is human life. Rosemary Radford Ruether, the ecofeminist theologian, once said something like her vision was "men and women living in harmony with each other and all earth beings with (something like this is the part I can't remember) a celebratory culture."

    A world without traditional cultural extravagances and inefficiencies(meat dishes, roses, dancing, art, literature)would be a world not quite human.

    It is the balance that is the challenge to all of us.

  28. ourchangingclimate (Bart):
    "Brian: I remember having read that Pachauri is strictly vegetarian. Don't quote me on it though."

    Dr. Pachauri took the time to answer with the following:
    “Dear Mr. Flynn,
    I am indeed a vegetarian but I do wear leather shoes which are not a beef by-product. In India leather is made from the carcasses of cows and buffalos when they die naturally.
    I have been advocating the importance of eating less meat for well over two years now. Please refer to my press conference in Bangkok on the release of the Working Group III report of the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC.
    With kind regards,
    Yours sincerely,
    R.K. Pachauri
    R K Pachauri, Ph.D
    Director-General, TERI
    Habitat Place, Lodhi Road
    New Delhi 110 003
    Tel: +91 11 24682121 or 2122
    Fax: +91 11 24682144 or 2145

    It is gratifying to see some advocacy by example. Mr. Gore?

  29. -24-Roger describes a conceptual need “to accelerate decarbonization of the economy toward some stabilization target decades in the future.”

    Stabilization of what? Atmospheric CO2? Climate?

    The latter is a pipe dream and the former is -- for all practical purposes -- irrelevant.

    In the (geologically speaking) near term, the current interglacial warming period WILL give way to the next glacial period and the 1,000 foot tall glaciers which once stood atop the current location of New York City WILL return.

    In the (geologically speaking) longer term, the current multi-million year Ice Age WILL end and the world WILL return to the hot house conditions which prevailed 30 million years ago. Anybody who fears those hot house conditions (and/or CO2) should note that the largest explosion in biodiversity this planet EVER witnessed -- the Cambrian Explosion -- occurred at a time when -- quite independent of one another -- the world was in a hot house climate and CO2 was about 20 times higher than today.

    Many seem to imagine the warming impact of atmospheric CO2 as a linear equation. It is logarithmic -- each molecule of CO2 has exponentially less warming effect than the molecule which preceded it. Eventually, you reach a saturation point where additional CO2 has -- effectively -- no impact.

    And, that logarithmic equation is most likely the explanation for why the world did not reach some mythical tipping point 520 million years ago when CO2 was about 20 times higher than today and about 10 times higher than the absolute worst case scenario painted by the IPCC for the year 2100.

    Click here for the climate science overview.