October 27, 2009

Lifestyle Changes, Less Meat For Emission Cuts

For Americans, simple lifestyle changes could effectively add up to a massive cut in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to France's entire annual emissions, according to a new study.

Thomas Dietz of Michigan State University's department of sociology and environmental science and policy issued a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday that outlines 17 simple activities for Americans to reduce their carbon footprint.

Activities include purchasing a more fuel-efficient vehicle, using a clothesline for drying clothing and monitoring the thermostat more closely.

The activities have been grouped into five sectors: weatherization, switching to more efficient equipment, maintaining equipment, adjusting appliance settings, and modifying daily personal use.

Taking part in such activities could lead to a reduction of 123 metric tons of carbon emissions each year by the 10th year, said Dietz.

"This amounts to... 7.4 percent of total national emissions -- an amount slightly larger than the total national emissions of France," the study said.

"It is greater than reducing to zero all emissions in the United States from the petroleum-refining, iron and steel, and aluminum industries, each of which is among the largest emitters in the industrial sector."

According to AFP, household energy makes up 38 percent of carbon emissions in the US. That's about 626 metric tons of carbon, or eight percent of global emissions.

Study authors noted that US household energy accounts for more than the emissions of any country except China.

In other climate change news, Lord Stern of Brentford, a leading global warming authority, told the UK Times that people would be more effective at fighting climate change if they stopped eating meat.

"Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases," said Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank. "It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. A vegetarian diet is better."

Stern noted that methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

"I think it's important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating," he said.

"I am 61 now and attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed radically since I was a student. People change their notion of what is responsible. They will increasingly ask about the carbon content of their food."

Additionally, Stern said that President Barack Obama must be present at the UN's global climate summit in Copenhagen in December in order to reach a comprehensive climate deal.

"I am not sure that people fully understand what we are talking about or the kind of changes that will be necessary," said Stern.


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