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The Great Plant-Based Con by Jayne Buxton

The Great Plant-Based Con by Jayne Buxton

Author:Jayne Buxton
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780349427935
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group


Bondevett’s concerns about the treatment of land and land use in the Poore model are best discussed in the next chapter. Suffice to say that he deemed the paper’s conclusions as conflicting ‘with both common agricultural practices and their related emissions and climate impact’.114

Bondevett was particularly critical of Poore and Nemecek’s use of the GWP100 metric for methane, which, he said, ‘grossly overstates the warming impact of ruminants’. When methane is calculated using GWP* (as explained on page 245), the charts comparing GHGs from different foods look very different. Poore and Nemecek ‘ignored all possibilities for accurate GHG accounting enabled by GWP*’.115

Frank Mitloehner echoes these concerns about the misuse of GWP metrics: ‘Poore and Springmann have used CO2e for methane and by doing so you assume that methane behaves in the same way to CO2, but it doesn’t. The other thing they do is use global numbers to depict the impact of meat and dairy, because these are much larger . . . and they like to use the water footprint of beef but they are calculating rainwater as part of that footprint. That water goes into the grass, is eaten by the animals, and comes out as urine, [then goes] back into the grass. So they really distort the picture.’116

Richard Young of the Sustainable Food Trust has also criticised the Poore study’s reductionist conclusions. He cites the observation that ‘the highest impact 25 per cent of producers represent 65 per cent of the beef herds’ GHG emissions’. A simplistic take on this observation would be to advocate the elimination of the ‘25 per cent of producers who are causing such a large part of the problem’. But this simplistic conclusion would be entirely wrong, says Young: ‘This 25 per cent of producers mostly live in dryland regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa: areas which often have very poor soil and low rainfall. As such their animals grow very slowly, but it is claimed, still produce a lot of methane because they have to eat very poor quality herbage. No doubt, people living in the Global South could reduce their carbon footprint from food significantly if they gave up meat and dairy, but they would also very quickly starve.’117 (They would starve because their land cannot be used to grow anything else. This challenge of using marginal land is something I’ll discuss in detail in the next chapter.)

Young also notes that the Poore and Nemecek study underestimates the carbon-sequestering potential of grasslands. Although their model is based on grassland offsetting a maximum of 22 per cent of emissions, ‘since they cite no specific UK data in their study it is not clear whether this has any relevance to the UK or whether it is simply a global average’. Young maintains that ‘heavily stocked grasslands do have the potential to sequester more carbon if their management is improved, while all croplands could steadily regain carbon if they were converted to grass or to rotations including grass breaks. Since a third of soils



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