A tax would allegedly act as a disincentive to keep people from eating red meat, and eventually all beef products – which some say is responsible for 10% of all global emissions. If they can convince people to cut down on their red meat consumption, then perhaps the planet will stop warming at such an alarming rate. Or so their thinking goes.
A report released by the United Nations’ International Resource Panel suggests taxing red meat so high that people stop buying it.
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Maarten Hajer, professor at the Netherlands’s Utrecht University, led the environment and food report that recommended the meat tax.
“All of the harmful effects on the environment and on health needs to be priced into food products,” said Hajer, who is a member of U.N.’s International Resource Panel, which comprises 34 top scientists and 30 governments. “I think it is extremely urgent.”
Hajer argued that governments must soon move to limit the major greenhouse gas producer. The idea of a meat tax has developed over the past 25 years as a “completely obvious” measure to economists and environmentalists, Hajer said, as knowledge of the environmental toll of meat emerged.
“We think it’s better to price meats earlier in the chain, it’s easier. It’s sexier to tax it at the consumer level, but not as effective,” said Hajer, a member of the International Resource Panel (IRP), which comprises 34 top scientists and 30 governments.
“Dealing with consumer choices is an extremely touchy issue, but you have to deal with it, because there will be consequences,” said Janez Potočnik, co-chair at the IRP and former EU environment commissioner. “The time is coming when we will not be able to sweep it any more under the carpet.”
Henk Westhoek, a co-author of the report, said it was not just governments that should encourage people to eat less meat on environmental grounds, but supermarkets and big food companies. “Once they provide better alternatives, not just in meat alternatives, but in menus, they would reduce meat consumption in western societies,” he said.
Global warming enthusiasts and environmentalists argue that the livestock industry is not “sustainable” because of how much water cattle and other animals consume, compared to how much water is needed for produce. The Washington Post claimed that agriculture is responsible for consuming 80% of the nation’s water.
But specifically, what global warming proponents are worried about with respect to cattle is their flatulence, and in particular, their belching. Even though bovine flatulence and belching aren’t responsible for much of global carbon emissions – according to the EPA, agricultural animal gas contributes to around 9% – every effort is being made to lower greenhouse gas emissions in every sector that produces them. Agriculture as a whole is [allegedly] responsible for a third of global emissions.
Of course, changing people’s behavior and eating habits will only work to curb global warming, if there is a link between carbon dioxide and the global climate. While there might be a correlation, correlation does not imply causation.