The Fellowship of Life
Eat less meat 'to reduce climate change and save thousands of lives'
People should eat less meat to reduce climate change and save thousands of lives a year, a Government-funded report has said.
It was released as Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, warned that global warming poses a “real and present danger” to the health of millions.
The report suggests that tens of thousands of lives a year could be saved in Britain alone by cutting the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere.
The number of animals farmed for food should be cut by almost a third, experts recommended.
The move would significantly cut emissions and save around 18,000 lives a year from heart disease alone, they estimate.
Alan Dangour, one of the authors of the report and a senior lecturer at the London School of School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that a dramatic change could be made without having to give up meat.
“We are not saying become vegetarian, we are just saying cut back on the amount of meat and meat products you eat," he said.
“Even cutting back by a third, as we suggest, would still mean that the average adult was still eating one meat based meal every day.”
The reduction would allow the agricultural sector to meet its share of targets to cut carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, he said.
Meat production is estimated to be to blame for around 18 per cent of the gases thought to cause man-made global warming.
Cutting down production of chicken, beef and pork could save even more lives, scientists said, if deaths from other diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, are included.
The report follows a similar call earlier this year from Lord Stern, one of the world’s leading experts on climate change, who said that people should give up meat to save the planet.
It is released less than a fortnight before international leaders are due to meet in Copenhagen for crunch talks on climate change.
The report also estimates that another 5,000 deaths from lung problems and other conditions could be prevented every year by fully insulating homes across the country.
Switching to walking instead of driving for many journeys could also cut deaths from heart disease by up to 4,200 cases a year as well as reduce emissions.
The move could also save around 200 deaths a year each from dementia and breast cancer.
The report, produced by the Lancet medical journal, also calls for a reduction in other greenhouse gases as well as carbon dioxide, such as ozone, which has been shown to cause lung problems.
Reducing carbon emissions would also cut air pollution across the world, reducing deaths from heart problems, lung conditions and other acute illnesses, especially in large parts of the developing world which still suffer from high levels of pollution.
Mr Burnham said: "Climate change can seem a distant, impersonal threat – in fact the associated costs to health are a very real and present danger.”
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said an ambitious deal to cut climate emissions had to be reached in Copenhagen.
"To protect the world's health we must stop dangerous climate change happening and limit temperature increases to no more than 2C.
"An ambitious and fair deal in Copenhagen will not only have major benefits in terms of reducing the climate change-related spread of infectious diseases and risks to food supply, but will also result in immediate green benefits in terms of a healthier environment and lifestyle for a low carbon Britain – and a low carbon world.
"This is why we are going to Copenhagen to secure an ambitious, effective and fair deal for everyone," he said.
Margaret Chan, of the World Health Organisation, warned that “no mercy” would be shown for humans’ mistakes over climate change.
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