Stop eating beef to save the world, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh suggested on Thursday.
A vegetarian himself, Ramesh offered a pat on the back for non-beef eaters, saying they help in “climate mitigation”.
“The single-most important cause of [carbon] emissions is eating beef,” Ramesh said. “My formula is stop eating beef. This would stop the emission of [large amounts of] methane.” Better alive
While Ramesh quoted a number of studies — and global climate change expert R.K. Pachauri — to support his view, the issue has been debated for years.
Last year, a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation study found that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions — emissions that are causing temperatures to rise, causing erratic rainfall, higher sea levels and stronger storm events.
On the flip side, many scientists argue that meat-eating is good for the environment because it eliminates animals whose manure emits methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent in the global warming scenario than carbon dioxide.
Ramesh’s comments throw the ball back in the court of the developed world a fortnight ahead of the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.
Per capita consumption of meat in the developed world is 70 to 80 times that in India, where the majority shuns beef and pork for religious reasons.
Ramesh, who was speaking at the launch of a UN report on world populations, ended his speech with a reminder that 600 million Indians are potential climate change victims, making it the biggest domestic threat facing the country.