A recent paper claimed that 'food miles' accounted for 20% of food emissions. But this is wrong.
This is fantastic Hannah. Chapeau.
Your analysis is so accessible! Thank you for making data enjoyable. Your work is really powerful.
"Plant-based foods nearly always have a higher footprint than animal produce"
Some serious flaws in the methodology used here, particularly for livestock. 1. You have accounted for land use change - this is only applicable for development of new farming land. Why account for beef and not other enterprises? This may be the case in Brazil where deforestation occurs for beef but what about palm oil plantations in SE Asia or pasture converted to cropping? 2. Emissions of CO2 only discussed - what about the other GHG? 3. Reporting emissions only is misleading as extensive pastoral systems can sequester more carbon than they omit. This article should be withdrawn and rewritten
I think the real answer is that there is no single answer. For some things (which will be different for everyone based on where they live) local makes sense. But to tackle climate change we need many solutions. Supporting local economies is important for supporting our communities. This might be food, it might be other ways. Because of our capitalist mindsets we like things with catch phrases like “eat local” - but the climate crisis won’t be saved by capitalism or slogans - only mass systems change. Thank you for unpacking these complicated questions.
"Plant-based foods nearly always have a higher footprint than animal produce."
Mmmmm but beef is worth it. Your soy will never compare to a perfectly seared steak.
presumably it's passed peer review, and nature is a reputable publisher, so i'm left with a couple of questions:
how have the authors been able to redefine such a commonly used term like that and not get pulled up? and (*slips on tin-foil hat*) what are they hoping to achieve by doing it?
is there some kind of methodological or other benefit to the redefinition? because it seems like this kind of thing would be more likely to have been published by a beef industry think tank than a respectable journal.
Thank you so much for this Hannah! I appreciate it so much. One angle you haven't covered but I'm interested in is the comparative advantage (economically and ecologically) that some places have for growing some foods. For example, I live in Canada, which is cold and has a short growing season. To grow tomatoes locally, they're often grown in heated greenhouses, which use way more energy than growing them in a warmer place and shipping them here. Growing crops where they're adapted to the climate, where less space, fertilizer, heating etc are needed, seems obvious, but this efficiency piece is hard to communicate. I'd love some data/visuals if you have time in the future 😊
The concept of eat locally seems illogical to me. If we were to adopt that idea then wouldn’t we have to reverse and go back to agrarian lifestyle. Mean more local farms, more farmers, more tractors, more land etc... We still have 8 billion people to feed. Land use would have to be reconfigured, forest knocked down things like that.
How is that better for the planet and it’s inhabitants?
It seems to me that the "eat locally " drive may be driven more nationally by land use, real estate, and regional tourism lobbies rather than climate change desires and its promotion. In states like Florida, when you pull back the curtains, almost all arguments about that state economy are driven by tourism dollars generating sales tax from visitors and not revenues from state income taxes obtained from Florida residents. Florida is a no state income tax state which draws retirees who are no longer adding children to the Florida school systems and derive their income from investments and not W-2 wages. Tourists arrive, stay in hotels, B&Bs, eat at restaurants, and then leave the state and go home. They do not put any strain on school systems nor local government services. Real estate interests in Florida create property taxes - locally - which Florida governments do collect from their residents, so real estate development and sales of that product is the other primary business of Florida other than tourism. Some Florida land use produces beef but its primary use of land is for the subdivisions of new homes to be sold to new Florida residents - older retirees. Florida land use for food production is continually being replaced by new homes, so eating locally is not a reality - just a wish that runs up against the real business of the state - tourism and real estate development.
Hi Hannah, I highly recommend you write a comment on their paper. Because their paper is published in a nature-branded journal, their results may become highly influential. As you pointed out, they are flawed and they must be pointed out so that the scholars in this field and the general public will know the truth more clearly.