As the world faces the existential threat of climate change, the former Vice President has embarked on an admirable quest to reform carbon-heavy habits. Yet despite his talk of making inconvenient choices, Mr. Gore continues to indulge in one of the most environmentally irrational habits of all: eating meat.
A 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found that meat production generates almost a fifth of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions—more than the world’s cars, planes, and trucks combined. Moreover, the report cited meat production as a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, and lost biodiversity. The scientists concluded “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
To put this in perspective, a University of Chicago study concluded that an individual American can do more to reduce global warming by going vegetarian than by driving a Prius.
Mr. Gore, a Prius driver, spoke at length on Wednesday about achieving energy independence. But one third of America’s fossil fuel consumption is used solely to raise animals for meat, according to the estimate of E, an environmental magazine.
Moreover, factory farms emit large quantities of methane and nitrous oxide—pollutants with, respectively, 23 times and 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. That’s why the organizers of the Live Earth concerts—at which Mr. Gore spoke—wrote in the Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook that “refusing meat” is “the single most effective thing you can do to reduce global warming.”
It might seem odd that Al Gore’s bacon and eggs breakfast could have more impact on the environment than his choice to avoid SUV’s. But meat production’s inherent inefficiency creates its large carbon footprint.