Apparently we should all reduce our meat consumption to half a rasher of bacon a day. Or perhaps a beefburger a week and all that. This coming from the Eat-Lancet project. This being how we save the planet, by us omnivores turning into near herbivores.
Well, yes, there’s a strain of human thought which says we should do this on moral grounds this latest just being a new excuse for the insistence. The problem with this justification being that it’s based on a serious of assumptions which are incorrect. And you just don’t get to correct conclusions by starting out in error.
Reducing red meat consumption to half a rasher of bacon a day and eating more nuts will help avert climate change, scientists say. An international team of experts has put lower meat consumption at the heart of a “planetary health diet” to stave off catastrophic damage to the Earth. They say people should think of meat as a treat and have “a burger once a week or a steak once a month”. Those who insist on eating red meat every day should have a maximum of 14g, which is equivalent to half a rasher of bacon and considerably less than the 70g maximum of red and processed meat recommended in the UK. The average British adult eats about 62g.
The report is here. And, given my own background, the thing to look at is this:
Nitrogen fertiliser is created using the Haber-Bosch industrial process to convert plentiful non-reactive nitrogen gas to ammonia. This process is highly energy intensive and associated with high levels of greenhouse-gas emissions. Conversely, phosphorus fertiliser is a non-renewable resource that is mined from a finite number of phosphate rock deposits. At existing and projected rates of exploitation, these deposits are estimated to run out within 50–100 years.
The idea that phosphate rock deposits will run out in 50 to 100 years is drivel. Drivel driven by an entire misunderstanding of what the mineral reserve, mineral resource, numbers are trying to tell us.
Here’s the standard USGS document on phosphate rock. They are looking at reserves. That’s the stuff we have proven we can mine at current prices, using current technology, and make a profit. The emphasis there is upon the two words, proven, profit. There’s a lot more out there which we’re really pretty sure we can mine but we haven’t proven it yet:
World Resources: Some world reserves were reported only in terms of ore tonnage and grade. Phosphate rock resources occur principally as sedimentary marine phosphorites. The largest sedimentary deposits are found in northern Africa, China, the Middle East, and the United States. Significant igneous occurrences are found in Brazil, Canada, Finland, Russia, and South Africa. Large phosphate resources have been identified on the continental shelves and on seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. World resources of phosphate rock are more than 300 billion tons. There are no imminent shortages of phosphate rock.
And, of course, phosphate rock is not the only possible source of phosphorous. This is all explained in chapters 5 and 7 here.
The Lancet is simply starting from incorrect assumptions about reality. That’s why their conclusions are crock.