Time to take a good look at our own habits

Date: Tuesday 29th December 2015

Sir, Amidst the suits and limos, and expenses paid jets and lunches of the Paris climate change summit, there have been a number of interesting statements that merit further clarification.

The first, that we in the West have been leading the way in controlling our CO2 production, and that it is now time for the more recently developing nations to follow suit (i.e. China and India), is at best rather condescending and at worst likely to make us miss the real pertinent fact that the “western nations” (North America, Japan and Europe) have always been and continue to be by far the biggest per capita polluters on the planet.

Canada and the USA lead, at more than twice the global average amount of greenhouse gas production per head of population, followed by Russia, then Japan, Europe and China, all at about the global average, but with India (currently maligned in the press as being one of the most polluted countries on the planet) lower still at about a third of the global average.

The second statement was a seemingly glib throw-away remark made by Arnold Schwarzenegger that we could all do something to help the world’s climate, for example by not eating meat for one or two days per week.

The rearing of livestock for human consumption is one of the most significant human activities by which greenhouse gases are produced: the methane emitted by ruminants; the fertilisers and fuels used in the production and distribution of animal feed; and the energy wasted by poor conversion rates of feed to meat by most animals are just some of the contributing aspects of this highly polluting industry.

It is very interesting that India has the highest proportion of vegetarians anywhere in the world, while North America has just about the lowest.

Clearly, nobody likes to be the object of criticism, and furthermore not many of us really want to take a good look at our own habits, let alone make any change in them, but if we are really interested in trying to limit the floods and all the misery they bring, we do need to address our own patterns of life while remembering that good role models can come from the most unlikely sources. Yours etc,