Bryan Wall: In Hot Water

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From top: Cows cool off in County Cavan last Summer; Bryan Wall

Late last month the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published a report that once again details the deleterious effects that humans continue to have on the biosphere. The report details the increase of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere which, they state, “have reached another record high”.

In their press release they wrote that “Since 1990, there has been a 41% increase in total radiative forcing — the warming effect on the climate — by long-lived greenhouse gases.” Of this, C02 makes up roughly 82% of this increase.

WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, pulled no punches and was quoted as saying that “Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth.”

Of course, this is not news, especially not to the world’s climate scientists and members of the public who have followed the science reporting on the issue. Nonetheless, his warnings must be heeded.

Our window of time to make real changes is rapidly closing, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently declaring that we have twelve years at most to limit the effects of climate change.

Even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would still have far-reaching consequences for the planet and us, however. Mass extinctions and die-offs will still take place even if warming is kept to the 1.5 degree limit, just at a lower rate.

Extreme and unseasonal weather will be the norm and droughts and flooding are likely to be commonplace. Warming higher than 1.5 degrees will amplify all of these aspects of climate change. And the fact of the matter is that we are currently well along the path to hurtling past the 1.5 degree limits.

Six years ago the World Bank was warning that an increase of 3.5 to 4 degrees was more likely. This would result in an overall 4 to 10 degree rise in temperature over land, meaning that “the coolest months are likely to be substantially warmer than the warmest month at the end of the 20th century.”

In the Mediterranean, for example, this would mean a 9 degree warmer month of July than the warmest July today. Today, at current rates, it is projected that by the end of the century the temperature will be 4 degrees higher, a massive failure on our part to ensure our survival as a species and the planet.

The world economy will be on the verge of collapse, food shortages will be commonplace given the failure of crops, and millions of deaths due to the increased temperatures will be unremarkable.

This summer saw widespread water shortages here due to the extreme temperatures, a timely reminder that we are not immune to the effects of climate change.

Yet, one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the fact that successive governments have been blasé regarding their concern for the environment and climate change in general.

The government’s current Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Mark Ferguson, recently told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change that “no crisis that was ever predicted in human history has come to pass.” He would also ask the committee to “not necessarily demonise oil and gas”.

In his comments to the committee he also made note of the rise of carbon capturing technologies, advocating their use even though their mass viability is decades away.

Also timely was that during the heatwave the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) issued its annual report on the effectiveness of Ireland’s climate change policy.

The CCAC’s press release opened with the statement that “Ireland is completely off course to achieve its 2020 and 2030 climate change targets.” The report also noted that one of the largest contributors to our greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture.

Emissions from this area increased by “4.5% relative to 2014”, with the expectation that these levels will continue to rise. It was pointed out that an increase in the number of dairy animals used in farming is responsible for the rise in emissions, with an increase of 25.1 per cent since 2011. Likewise there has been a rise in the number of non-dairy cattle, with an increase of 8.9 per cent since 2011 being noted.

On a similar note, according to a report issued by the World Resources Institute (WRI) last week, “major climate changes will make it impossible to grow certain crops.” What makes this even more concerning is that “Consumption of ruminant meat (beef, lamb, and goat) is projected to rise 88 percent between 2010 and 2050.”

As is referred to in the report, beef, for example, “is resource-intensive to produce, requiring 20 times more land and emitting 20 times more GHGs [greenhouse gases] per gram of edible protein than common plant proteins”.

If people were to limit themselves to roughly one and half hamburgers per week, it “would reduce the GHG mitigation gap [the 1.5 degree limit of warming] by half”. Clearly, then, taking a long and hard look at the content of our diets is something that we all must do and must encourage others to do.

Alas, the farming lobby is notoriously strong and conservative, thus ensuring that any attempts to limit cattle and sheep farming will be met with strong resistance. E

ven the appearance and popularity of non-dairy alternatives has the farming community and the dairy industry worried.

In a recent interview, Zoe Kavanagh of the National Dairy Council declared that the Irish system of dairy production, given that it is based on grass, “demonstrates the highest of standards… in terms of care for the environment.”

She also accused the “rejectors” – i.e., those who promote the use of non-dairy milk and cheeses  – of being “sinister” by “deliberately targeting young impressionable teenagers and scaring them.”

Obviously this “care for the environment” is at odds with the science on emissions produced by the farming industry.

And the truth regarding climate change is, unfortunately, scary. Unless something drastic is to happen in the next few years, we are well on our way to shooting past the 1.5 degree limit that has been agreed to.

Governments have been slow to react and corporations and industries have gone on the offensive in order to negate any green initiatives which may undercut their profit. If anything could be a better example of the psychology of the profit motivation in the late capitalist era it is the fact that companies would rather make just a bit more profit than try to save the planet that they rely on for their very existence.

If change is to happen, it is likely to come from people taking matters into their own hands and advocating and pushing for it themselves.

Cutting down on our dairy and meat consumption can have a huge impact considering it is something that is relatively easy to do.

If we simply defer all decision-making regarding the environment to governments and their patrons in industry and corporations, the status quo will remain and we will have doomed ourselves and our children.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Top pic by Lorraine Teevan

68 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: In Hot Water

  1. postmanpat

    Stop eating beef and consuming milk and cheese. Cow milk causes osteoporosis in adults because when an adult drinks milk the blood becomes more acidic and your bones get leeched directly to balance the PH . Its not good for you or the environment . Its full of udder puss and antibiotics anyway. Cow urine and excrement gets into the rivers and sea which causes dead zones for fish. Consuming cow products causes more damage per person than running a car.

      1. Medium Sized C

        THAT is entirely reductive.
        You can’t just look at one fracture type and just compare it to milk consumption and say it’s significant.

        The post doesn’t consider activity levels, life expectancy, culture or genetc traits like hip structure.

      2. Clampers Outside!

        On the linked bit, that’s a correlation, and not even a good one with discrepancies in it, such as Iran…. low dairy, high fractures. And it only looks at hip fractures…. it’s a complete nonsense filler article for some nonsense blog.

        Correlation is not indicative of causation.

        1. papa p

          Iran = covered up women = no sun = no vit c.

          Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It’s involved in many body functions, including formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.

  2. AssPants

    The small man is always blamed for climate change………..just look at the amount of packaging you dispose of when you come back from the supermarket; all you have done is put the groceries in the press; you haven’t even made anything to eat and the “recycling” bin,( that is what it is called anyway, none of us really knows what happens to it contents) is full!

    It’s not the individuals fault, it’s the fault of Global Corporate profit hungry and brand obsessed organizations who want their brand on as much packaging as possible, regardless of the environment, as packing is cheap advertising.

    1. papa p

      “It’s not the individuals fault” True.
      But the power is with the consumer.
      Look at what other countries do with regard to packaging on fruits and vegetables. Leave the packaging in the supermarket after you purchase it. They will soon choose to sell their products in another way.

    2. Rob_G

      If their consumers don’t put pressure on companies to change, why would they bother? Large companies are interested only in the profits that they can earn for their shareholders; it is up to consumers to let the companies know through their purchasing choices that things like excess packaging, etc. will negatively affect their bottom line. Any threat to their profits would make them change their practices quick smart.

      1. f_lawless

        but don’t these companies dominate the food retailer industry from large supermarkets to small chain stores? It’s not realistic for the public to buy en masse at the relatively few places you can find non-packaged fruit/veg

        1. Rob_G

          Sure, it may not be be practical to completely avoid packaging,but baby steps – instead of buying tomatoes on a plastic tray, wrapped in cellophane, just buy the loose ones.

          If there is some foodstuff that you frequently buy that comes wrapped in ten types of plastic, write to the supermarket letting them know that you would prefer a loose alternative.

          I have always found Supervalu the worst – they even have their ginger on a plastic tray wrapped in cellophane – ginger!! The hardiest foodstuff known to humanity!

    3. Nigel

      It’s not individual’s fault, all the more reason to rally together in large groups to support political policies that will put pressure on the global corporations and change government behaviour as well

    4. Medium Sized C

      The small man is basically never blamed for climate change.

      Telling people that they can have a positive effect by eating less meat and dairy is not the same as blaming people for climate change.

    5. shortforBob

      I think appropriate taxation on aviation fuel might have more of an impact than worrying about packaging or telling poor people not to eat meat, but good luck getting any international agreement on the big problems.

        1. Cian

          5% of the world are vegetarian (so 95% eat meat). This is about 8% of annual worldwide C02;
          so 95% of meat-eaters produce 8% CO2

          Of this there were ~4 billion flight passengers last year; if we assume most passengers fly home then there were 2 billion return passengers. So a *maximum* of 25% are airline passengers…. if you look how many people are repeat flyers this drops.
          so 10-20% of flyers produce 3% of C02 by airlines

          So the fewer flyers are producing more C02 per person…. so it is (slightly) more important to tackle.
          The meat eaters are responsible for other greenhouse gasses too….

          Perhaps we should fix both!

          1. shortforBob

            Thanks for that Cian. That goes some way to putting things in proportion. I would note that in addition to passenger travel we need to consider air freight too.

            I’m not convinced about claims that meat eating is as a big problem as some studies have claimed. Land that is used for grazing animals is not necessarily suitable for growing crops (particularly the rubbish land where sheep and goats can graze). Before preaching about sustainable food supply people should consider where their food comes from. Sanctimonious vegans importing Quinoa from South America other produce shipped from half way round the world aren’t sustainable either.
            My point about the low taxes on aviation fuel is that we aren’t paying the real costs of air travel. If we aren’t paying the real costs of food production we need plan ahead and start adjusting the prices, and we will probably all need to eat more locally produced foods.

            There are many things we should do but it is important to keep things in proportion and not put undue burden on the small man.

  3. Cian

    I dunno – perhaps we should start by encouraging people to reduce their meat intake to once-a-day. A lot of people are eating ham/chicken at lunchtime – and then eating met again for their dinner.

    1. Medium Sized C

      Yeah.
      I eat vegetarian Monday to Friday and eat meat at the weekend.
      Interestingly I have found that unless we are eating bacon and cabbage I am eating less meat at the weekend too.

      But you could just cut down.
      Like if you ate the equivalent of a chicken fillet a day, split between the three meals, you’d be grand.

  4. Spaghetti Hoop

    The extent of the methane problem has been quite a recent revelation, no less serious than Co2. Individuals are proving quick to react to this, which indicates that behaviour change is not impossible and that citizens are reading the reports and keen to do their bit. Prime time for government and EPA to act with mitigation policy. I am also shocked that the plastic to glass bottle thing hasn’t progressed – so many excellent ideas out there on filling stations, bottle re-use etc.

    However, given that climate change cannot ever be controlled, this government needs to develop climate adaptation policies – especially for communities living in vulnerable areas and for farmers practicing the same land-use activities year-in, year-out.

    1. scottser

      there’s plenty of scope to develop methane harvesting systems. i’m actually a bit miffed with myself that i never did engineering when i was younger. probably has something to do with me being useless at maths and building sfuff. but SOMEONE should be at this like a fat kid on smarties.

      1. CO2 Rocks

        More nonsense.

        If methane is a problem then why does it naturally and continuously seep from the earth into the atmosphere?

        [Under sunlight methane breaks down into H2O (water vapour) and CO2, both gasses essential for life on earth. Methane is also lighter than air so as it seeps to the top of the atmosphere it is resupplying these essential gasses, fertilizing our air so plants will grow]

        1. scottser

          it’s explosive. you could use is as a fuel, as you can with your poo and your wee if you had a mind.
          so which thinktank do you work for, koch boy?

  5. AssPants

    I have many times left packing behind; and many times I am told if there is something wrong with the product I won’t be able to exchange it; to which I often repeat, is this product reliant on it’s packaging to operate all functions?

    In a diy store I was told I wouldn’t be able to return an electric tool without the packaging; that myth was soon dispelled.

    In regards to groceries; my local supermarket is family run and “very local” if you understand. I have been tempted to unpack the multiples of product with layers of packing and leaving it in the store, but everybody knows me and my dog, and it’s possibly one of the only places I like to shop simply because they are very helpful.

    I have been thinking for many years of how to make a packing free supermarket work; whatever you want is available in a dispenser, cereal, milk, eggs, fruit and veg, meat etc, etc…. is all sold without packaging so you invest in your own lifetime containers and dispense the volume of product you would like.

    Would love to make it happen…….

    1. Clampers Outside!

      I believe you are allowed remove all packing before leaving the shop in both LIDL and Aldi.

  6. kellMA

    If we all start somewhere – reduce meat intake. Try and have 1-3 veggie days a week. If you like fizzy water, get a soda stream. Get those rubbery-plastic tops to use on your bowls for leftovers instead of cling film. Get a bring mug for your coffee/teas. Use oat milk in your porridge or for some of your “milk” requirements (nice for birds custard and hot chocolates). Get a compost bin for your back garden (paper can go in here too).

      1. Medium Sized C

        Bring mugs are the least of our problems.
        Seriously folks, bring mugs are a great idea.
        Regular plain old normal mugs are cool too.

        But rich westerners bringing their own cup to get a coffee is not solving any eco-systemic problem we have.

        1. kellMA

          Agreed, but we all need to start somewhere and it might be small but it is better than wringing your hands and not doing anything at all.

          1. Nigel

            I mean, the hope is that increasing awareness and consciousness about these sorts of things can lead to prioritising these issues when it comes to voting in elections or supporting others who are active about these things in communities, or even becoming active.

          2. Rob_G

            Awareness raising is all well-and-good; but nothing focuses the minds of consumers like introducing a new tax.

            Look at plastic bags – everyone knew for years and years that something needed to be done, ‘bags for life’ were sold in all supermarkets, but consumers did not sit up and take notice until they had to pay. The same principle should be applied to disposable coffee cups and single-use plastics.

          3. CO2 Rocks

            Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!

            France is burning because of Macron-the-Globalist’s lies about man-made climate change and you’re obsessing about coffee cups?

            How do you think coffee beans would grow if there was no atmospheric CO2?

          4. Medium Sized C

            There are far better places to start.
            I mean think about the difference you would make if you stopped drinking takeout coffee? Stopped drinking coffee?

            You would make all of the difference that a keep cup would PLUS the vastly overwhelming energy cost of growing, transporting, packaging and brewing coffee.
            Actually, you’d save on the keep cup too.
            And reduce demand for tropical forest land to grow coffee…..
            (although on the other hand, placing more poverty stress on people in the tropics seems to be bad for the forests.)

            Just a thought like.
            Coffee consumption doesn’t make any lists though.

            Incidentally
            https://www.drawdown.org/solutions

            3: Reduce food waste
            4: Plant rich diet.

            Those, according to some good science are the two most effective places to start.

          5. CO2 Rocks

            No coffee without atmospheric CO2.

            No life on earth without atmospheric CO2.

            Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

  7. CO2 Rocks

    Another fool trying to sir your brain with lies, half truths and nonsense.

    Human’s only produce about 3% of all atmospheric CO2 yet the church of climate doom claims that only human-produced CO2 causes climate change and is silent about natural CO2 which makes up 97% of the CO2 present in the atmosphere. In other words, if CO2 is measured at 400 parts per million then humans have only produced 12 parts per million of that total volume. There is no proof – NONE – that CO2 causes any rise in temperature.

    Anybody pushing Man-made climate change hoax is trying to pick your pocket. Or worse – trying to destroy meaning.

    How many climate doomsday scenarios have actually come true? None.

    Climate Change has always occurred, and it has nothing to do with CO2. CO2 once reached 7000 ppm and there was no catastrophic warming. The earth fell into an ice age when CO2 was 4000 ppm, or 10x the level it is today. Never in the history of the earth has the climate not been changing. A changing climate is the norm, not the exception, and man’s ability to stop climate change is about the same as man’s ability to stop the seasons, and night and day. Fighting climate change is the Quixotic venture of all Quixotic ventures.

        1. CO2 Rocks

          I simply remind people that CO2 is essential for life on earth.

          The tinky-pumples are the ones who are lying to you about CO2 so they can pick your pocket.

          The fools are the ones who unquestioningly believe these lying tinky-pumples.

    1. Medium Sized C

      I really do wish any of what you say wasn’t nonsense.
      But, the greenhouse effect is rock solid physics.

      1. CO2 Rocks

        Carbon dioxide is a pass-through for energy, not an accumulator for energy. What this means is this: As a wave of fingerprint radiation (often 15 micron wavelength) hits a CO2 molecule, a molecular bond stretches within CO2. While that bond is stretching, the CO2 molecule is increasing its amplitude of emission. The energy leaves as fast as it is being absorbed with only one fourth being conducting to surrounding molecules.

        Temperature is an average vibration over many molecules. Each CO2 molecule would have to be about 2,500°C hotter than the atmosphere to create an average of 1°C increase for the whole atmosphere.

        http://www.nov79.com/grhg.html

        1. Medium Sized C

          I mean I’m probably gonna ignore a web page that looks like it was created by an 8 year old, when compared with a near complete modern scientific consensus.

          Cheers though.

        2. CO2 Rocks

          So you’ll ignore the truth in favour of fake science because Argumentum ad populum?

          Real science does not proceed by consensus. It proceeds by uncovering truth.

          Real science does not fake it’s data.

          In real science, if the data does not support the hypothesis the you abandon the hypothesis not the data.

          For decades the “consensus” is the man-made climate catastrophe is imminent.

          Yet the catastrophe never arrives so the “consensus” is nonsense.

          1. Medium Sized C

            No, real science proceeds by consensus.
            It pretty much always has.
            Its kind of what science is, consensus on interpretation of observable information about the universe…..

          2. Papi

            Piss-poor is standard enough for coxrox.
            World War Three hasn’t happened, therefore fear mongers are lying to you! Here, Fisher Price did a study which proves it!!

  8. Eoin

    I don’t trust the World Bank. Or any bank. Not with regards to finance and ESPECIALLY not with regards to climate science. Macron has just made a big mistake in France. He tells the people they must pay more because Frances carbon output is too high, yet at the same time he opens the doors to migrants and refugees who will add to the population AND boost the carbon output. If he really cared that much about climate change (enough to risk riots by increasing fuel tax) surely he would have done something to stem immigration? Is it any wonder many doubt what they are being told about climate change in the Western world? And the East seems to be happy to ignore it all entirely as they appear to be making zero effort to reign in carbon emissions. I’ve already had a decade of Al Gore telling me that I’d be dealing with 2 meter water level rises and mega storms….that have yet to transpire. And now they’re injecting the same fear into the millennial generation, just with new face on the fear mongers. So what’s the truth?

    1. kellMA

      Not sure I follow your logic. How does allowing refugees into your country increase the carbon footprint on the planet?
      These people already exist. If anything it would improve it in the long term as they come from a culture with high birth rates to one with lower ones…
      And I think we have had a fair few “mega storms” in the last while… Or maybe I’m reading this all wrong and your post is meant in an ironic way?

    1. CO2 Rocks

      Methane is a natural byproduct of digestion.

      CO2 is a natural byproduct of respiration.

      Neither CO2 nor Methane are atmospheric pollutants.

      Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

      They lie because it is in their financial interest to do so, or because they have been brainwashed by 40 years of indoctrination,

  9. Provisional Chicken Fillet

    The vegan barbarian hordes would have us silenced and enslaved, forcing us to turn in our dairy milk for soy bean, spouting abomanations of “here, try this kale” and “try this vegan cheese, tastes just lile the real thing!”
    who would have thought the repeal of blasphemy law would have thos effect?

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