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Americans Have Officially Reduced Their Beef Consumption by 19 Percent

Turns out, Americans may be making smart, eco-friendly decisions in the grocery store after all.

The National Resources Defense Council recently released a report on American food consumption, which found that Americans reduced their intake of beef famously the most carbon-intense food on the planet by 19 percent between 2005 and 2014. For anyone who cares about the environmental footprint of their food choices, this is decidedly good news.

Americas Changes in Consumption

Americans chose to eat a lot less meat in 2014 than they did in 2005. In fact, they ate about ⅕ less meat in the former year than they did in the latter. According to the NRDC, this will result in a huge reduction in carbon emissions from the US.

Americans consumed 19 percent less beef, avoiding an estimated 185 MMT of climate-warming pollution or roughly the equivalent of the annual tailpipe pollution of 39 million cars, the report states.

And it wasnt just beef that saw decreased consumption. Milk, pork, high-fructose corn syrup and shellfish consumption also went down.

Image via NRDC

The reason behind the shift is still up for debate. According to the New York Times, some industry experts attribute the changes to steeper prices of red meat. Droughts that plagued the region increased the cost of beef, as did increasing rates of export to other countries. Additionally, about one quarter of consumers attested that it was concerns about cholesterol and saturated fat that had them reaching for alternative protein sources.

Beef vs. Alternatives

Beef is notoriously horrible for the environment. In addition to the methane gasses released by cattle, numerous other factors make beef an unsustainable option (at least, beef as it is raised today). In order to feed cows, farmers must harvest millions of acres of corn and soy, resource-intensive crops that are often heavily treated with fossil fuel-based pesticides and insecticides. Then, of course, there is the loss of arable land associated with massive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, often known as CAFOs.

In fact, even just switching from beef to chicken can have a massive positive impact on the environment. In simplified terms, beef production emits 26.45 kilogram equivalents of CO₂ for every 1 kg of beef, which chicken only emits 5.05.

What Foods to Eat (And What Foods Not to Eat) To Save the Planet

When it comes to a diet that can improve the state of the planet by reducing carbon emissions, the waters are murky. One thing, however, is certain: Eating mainstream beef is bad for the planet. Swap out beef for plant-based proteins whenever possible, but dont swap it out for dairy. (In fact, most types of dairy have a C02 emissions rating higher than chicken or pork!). You should also avoid some resource-intensive vegetables, like asparagus (big shocker: asparagus is worse for the planet than chicken!), as much as possible. Here are some swaps you might consider making, according to the EWG:

Swap out salmon (11.9 kgs carbon emissions) for beans (2 kgs)
Swap out cheese (13.5 kgs) for eggs (4.8 kgs)
Swap out pork (12.1 kgs) for tofu (2.0 kgs)
Swap out turkey (10.9 kgs) for peanut butter (2.5 kgs)
Swap out canned tuna (6.1 kgs) for lentils (our clear winner at 0.9 kgs)

Finally, eating local should be your first priority if youre trying to go gentle on planet Earth. Even if you just cant give up eating a burger once in awhile, youll be doing the earth a huge favor by simply choosing a local, grass-fed producer.

Most beef cattle in the United States today are finished on grain in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), states the NRDC report. Growing this cattle feed (primarily corn and soy) requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, which, in turn, require significant inputs of fossil fuels. Alternative models of beef production, such as intensive rotational cattle grazing, can help sequester carbon in the soil and provide numerous other health and environmental benefits compared to CAFOs.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Americans Have Officially Reduced Their Beef Consumption by 19 Percent

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Trump Expected to Sign Executive Orders Hitting the EPA

Mother Jones

Scott Pruitt will almost certainly be the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Oklahoma attorney general’s nomination is expected to sail through Senate—possibly as soon as Friday—despite Democrats’ protests that he is unfit to lead an agency that he has repeatedly sued. The administration has already imposed a freeze on the EPA’s social media, halted its rulemaking, and reportedly mandated that all agency research be reviewed by a political appointee before being released to the public. But next week, once Pruitt is sworn in, the real frenzy will begin.

According to Reuters, President Donald Trump plans to sign between two and five environmental executive orders aimed at the EPA and possibly the State Department. The White House is reportedly planning to hold an event at the EPA headquarters, similar the administration’s roll-out of its widely condemn travel ban after Defense Secretary James Mattis took office. While we don’t know what, exactly, next week’s orders will say, Trump is expected to restrict the agency’s regulatory oversight. Based on one administration official’s bluster, the actions could “suck the air” out of the room.

Trump may have hinted at the forthcoming orders in his unwieldy press conference on Thursday. “Some very big things are going to be announced next week,” he said. (He didn’t make clear whether or not he was referring to the EPA.)

Former President Barack Obama’s array of climate regulations, including the Clean Power Plan limiting power plant emissions, are certainly high on conservative activists’ hit list. So too is the landmark Paris climate deal, in which Obama agreed to dramatically cut domestic carbon emissions and provide aide to other countries for clean energy projects and climate adaptation. The EPA’s rule that defines its jurisdiction over wetlands and streams is also a prime target. As attorney general, Pruitt launched lawsuits against a number of these regulations.

“What I would like to see are executive orders on implementing all of President Trump’s main campaign promises on environment and energy, including withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty,” said Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s EPA transition and recently returned to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in an email to Mother Jones.

H. Sterling Burnett, a research fellow the Heartland Institute, which rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, says Trump could start by revisiting the Obama administration’s efforts to calculate a “social cost of carbon“—and by forbidding its use to determine costs and benefits of government regulations. He also wants to see broader restrictions on how the EPA calculates costs and benefits. In particular, Burnett hopes Trump will prohibit the agency from the considering public health co-benefits of regulations—for example, attempts by the EPA to argue that limits on CO2 emissions from power plants also reduce emissions of other dangerous pollutants.

Or Trump could take a cue from Republican Attorneys General Patrick Morrisey (W.V.) and Ken Paxton (Texas), who recommended in December that Trump issue a memorandum directing the EPA to “take no further action to enforce or implement” the Clean Power Plan. (The Supreme Court halted implementation of the rule a year ago while both sides fight it out in federal court).

The holy grail for conservatives would be reversing the agency’s so-called “endangerment finding,” which states that greenhouse gas emissions harm public health and must therefore be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The endangerment finding is the legal underpinning for the bulk of Obama’s climate policies, including the restrictions on vehicle and power plant emissions. Undoing the finding wouldn’t be an easy feat and can’t be accomplished by executive order alone. The endangerment finding isn’t an Obama invention; in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gasses if it found they harmed public health. Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing that the administration wouldn’t revisit the finding, but he also launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against it in 2010. Neither Ebell nor Burnett expects to see Trump to tackle the endangerment finding just yet.

Environmentalists are already planning their response. Litigation is certainly an option, but it would of course depend on the details of Trump’s executive actions. Several groups, including EarthJustice and Natural Resources Defense Council, have already sued to block Trump’s earlier executive order requiring that every new regulation be offset by scrapping two existing regulations. Their case: The administration can’t arbitrarily ditch regulations just because the president wants fewer of them on the books.

They could be making a similar case soon enough. “A new president has to deal with the record and evidence and findings,” EarthJustice’s lead attorney, Patti Goldman, said. “If you take climate and the endangerment finding, that is a scientific finding that is upheld by the court. That finding has legal impacts. If there’s a directive along those lines, there will have to be a process.”

Of course, anti-EPA Republicans disagree about what is constitutional, which is one reason the agency is in for a tumultuous ride over the next four years. For many conservatives, no EPA at all—or at least one that has no regulatory powers—is the best option. “I read the constitution of the United States, and the word environmental protection does not appear there,” said Heartland’s Burnett. “I don’t see where it’s sanctioned. I think it should go away.” A freshman House Republican recently introduced a bill to do just that, but there’s no sign that it’s going to pass anytime soon.

And while Burnett acknowledges that the EPA probably won’t be vanishing in the near future, he’s been happy with the direction Trump has taken so far. He’s pleased with the president’s moves to restart the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, and he’s hopeful that the administration will move toward an EPA with “smaller budgets and a smaller mission, justified by the fact that you’ll have fewer regulations.”

Depending on what Trump does next week, that could be just the beginning.

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Trump Expected to Sign Executive Orders Hitting the EPA

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A Conservative Discovers the Racist Right

Mother Jones

Over at National Review, Jay Nordlinger comments on racism:

The 2016 election cycle made me much wiser, in addition to sadder….All my life, I had heard about racists, anti-Semites, and other such types on the right. Maybe I was sheltered, but I almost never encountered any of them. I thought they were essentially bogeymen, conjured by the lyin’ Left. The people I met were good Reagan conservatives — the salt of the earth.

Then came 2016, in partnership with the social media. The rock was overturned. In a way, I wish the rock had stayed put.

I hope National Review decides to take this institutionally more seriously, instead of commenting on race only when someone is outraged about some perceived excess of the social justice warriors on the left.

Throughout American history, there have been periodic opportunities to make real headway against racism if only both parties had provided a united front. But that’s never happened. One party or the other has always found the votes of white racists too alluring to ignore.

As the number of white racists declines, it should be easier to reject them, but instead just the opposite has happened. In our 50-50 nation, even a smallish bloc is far too large to actively repudiate. Trump may be the last gasp of white racial anxiety in America, or he might represent the start of a global white nationalist movement. I hope for the former and fear for the latter. Either way, it would be nice if both parties recognized the danger.

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A Conservative Discovers the Racist Right

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Is Reaching Out Beyond White Men an Example of "Politicizing" Science?

Mother Jones

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This coming Earth Day is the March for Science. “On April 22, 2017, we walk out of the lab and into the streets,” say the organizers in a charming effort to sound like hellions. It doesn’t really work, though, thanks to a Twitter feed full of stuff like this:

There are also a zillion Star Trek jokes, pictures of Albert Einstein, nerdy hats, and everything else you’d expect from scientists. However, early on in the planning some people suggested that the organizers should try to ensure that the whole thing wasn’t just a bunch of white men. This led to a statement on diversity, and eventually to this single tweet among the gazillions of others:

Maybe this is a little over the top. YMMV. However, as I read it, the organizers aren’t saying that these issues can be reduced to data and solved as scientific problems. They are saying that these things affect scientists, just as they affect us all.

Nonetheless, the good folks at National Review are upset. A scientist named Alex Berezow says he won’t be attending the march because, among other things, “It’s curious that a website that seeks to include everybody conspicuously left men, whites, and Christians off the diversity list.” Wesley Smith agrees:

Berezow is exactly right: For example, science can tell us the biological nature of a fetus. It cannot tell us whether it is right or wrong to have an abortion. That question sounds in morality, ethics, religion, and politics.

If science properly understood ever becomes conflated in the public mind with left wingism, it will profoundly harm that crucial sector and thence, the human future.

Science is already too politicized with policy or ethical debates wrongly called questions about whether one side or the other is “anti-science.”

I suspect that if we dig deep enough, we would find George Soros money paying for all of this. Be that as it may, no reputable scientist should march in the March for Science.

Yeah. George Soros is everywhere. And making an effort to highlight the fact that women and people of color are scientists too isn’t a good thing, it’s “politicizing” science. That sure is a funny definition of politicizing.

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Is Reaching Out Beyond White Men an Example of "Politicizing" Science?

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Leading Climate Experts Have Some Advice for Donald Trump

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

To fulfill his campaign slogan of “Make America great again,” Donald Trump must back the boom in green technology—that was the message from the leading climate figures ahead of his inauguration as president on Friday.

Unleashing US innovation on the trillion-dollar clean technology market will create good US jobs, stimulate its economy, maintain the US’ political leadership around the globe and, not least, make the world a safer place by tackling climate change, the experts told the Guardian.

The omens are not encouraging. Trump has called global warming a hoax and is filling his administration with climate change deniers and oil barons. But reversing action on climate change and championing fossil fuels will only “make China great again,” said one top adviser.

Here are the messages to Trump from some of the key figures the Guardian contacted.

Michael Liebreich, founder of analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance who has advised the UN and World Economic Forum on energy: “If I had one minute with president elect Trump my message would be that the best way to ‘Make America great again’ is by owning the clean energy, transportation and infrastructure technologies of the future. Not only will this create countless well-paid, fulfilling jobs for Americans, but will also lock in the US’ geopolitical leadership for another generation.”

John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who has advised Angela Merkel, the Pope and the EU: “Mr. President, if you want to make China great again, you have to stay the course you have promised. I think it would be the end of US domination in innovation, in economics. If you try to take the US backwards to the days of mountain top removal for coal in West Virginia and all those things, then you will just make sure China becomes No. 1 in all respects. In the end, you would produce precisely what you promised to avoid to your electorate.”

Dame Julia King, an eminent engineer and one of the UK government’s official advisers at the Committee on Climate Change: “If President Trump wants to deliver greater job security for Americans, he should focus on clean and sustainable industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Those are the sectors that are set to prosper. He needs to build an economy for 2050, not one for 1950.”

Lord Nicholas Stern, a leading climate change economist at the London School of Economics: “If you want to make America great again, building modern, clean and smart infrastructure makes tremendous commercial and national sense. In the longer term, the low carbon growth story is the only growth story on offer. There is no long-term, high-carbon growth story, because destruction of the environment would reverse growth.”

Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative think tank: “If you’re interested in quality, high paying and skilled jobs for the American middle classes, then renewable energy has to absolutely be the place to look. It’s a sector with more employees now than in the US coal industry and with a long way to grow.”

James Hansen, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University: “If Trump wants to achieve the things that he claimed he would: improving the situation of the common man, the best way he could do this would be a program of a rising carbon fee with the money distributed to the public.”

Jennifer Morgan, co-executive director of Greenpeace International: “Mr. Trump, you might not realize it yet, but your action, or inaction, on climate will define your legacy as president. The renewable energy transformation is unstoppable and, if the US chooses to turn its back on the future, it will miss out on all the opportunities it brings in terms of jobs, investment and technology advances. China, India and others are racing ahead to be the global clean energy superpowers and surely the US, led by a businessman, does not want to be left behind.”

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US: “Trump’s stance threatens to diminish America’s standing in the world and to weaken the ability of US companies and workers to compete in the rapidly growing global market for clean energy technologies.”

May Boeve, head of climate campaign group 350.org: “Quit. But if you have to stick around, realize that the clean energy economy is the greatest, biggest job creator in history.”

Some leading figures, who will have to deal directly with the Trump administration, chose more diplomatic messages to the new president, while emphasizing the vital need to act on global warming:

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—the UN’s climate chief: “I look forward to working with your new administration to make the world a better place for the people of the US and for peoples everywhere in this very special world.”

Scientist Derek Arndt, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presenting the temperature data showing 2016 was the hottest year on record: “We present this assessment for the benefit of the American people.”

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Leading Climate Experts Have Some Advice for Donald Trump

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