A brotherly challenge on climate change
Cows - big methane culprits?
It’s funny, I’ve got the Copenhagen conference coming out of my ears - trying to keep up with latest developments, seeing where the sticking points are – yet one of the most interesting climate change discussions I’ve had this week was with my brother. On Facebook. Who’d have thought it?
It sounds unlikely, but it's true. It all started when I became a weekday vegetarian a few weeks ago, for climate change reasons. I posted something on Facebook about my confusion over whether to stop eating meat (since animals, especially cows, produce methane, which is worse still than carbon dioxide in terms of climate change ) or whether I had to include dairy (since cows produce far more methane than other animals meats), or whether swapping to soy milk was still worse (because soya production has been one of the most important causes of deforestation, and therefore climate change).
My brother – unlike me, scientifically minded, and brilliantly so – replied with a series of searching questions on the science of climate change, along with queries about the difference that individuals can make in developed and developing countries. These three issues: the science of climate change, how the developing world can grow in a low carbon way, and the role of the developed world, will be the subjects of my next three blogs.
So first: the science.
Like lots of people, my brother's not a climate change denier, but does have difficulty finding the evidence in an accessible, freely available form. He was worried, for example, that some of the research that the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] used didn't appear to have been peer-reviewed and therefore might not be of sufficient quality. Yet the IPCC is the body we rely on as the trusted provider of the science behind climate change, because they are made up of a wide selection of the world’s leading subjects on the matter – or to put it another way, they are the peers! He was also concerned about whether climate models can make reliable predictions.
I'm no scientist myself, but I responded to some of his questions with the Royal Society's brilliantly simple response to some of the oft-heard myths around climate change. I've also suggested we visit the Science Museum's new Prove It exhibition , which presents all the evidence and let’s you make up your own mind.
Will giving up weekday burgers really make an impact on climate change? Credit: Dave77459
Fine, said my brother, but still: what difference will a million people in the developed world stopping eating meat make, compared to a billion people in developing countries ceasing subsistence farming in order to develop through moving to cities and shifting their livelihoods to industry?
Good point. Some new research suggests that among poorer countries, the percentage of people living in urban areas is expected to rise from 29.4% to 41.5% between 2010 and 2030. For example, while the population of DRC is expected to almost double between 2005 and 2030, the population of Kinshasa is projected to increase from around 8.5m today to over 20m in 2030 and the DRC population overall become majority urban before 2035. So we’re talking about substantial changes in.
Hmmmm……I'll try and give my perspective on these questions in the next couple of blogs.