This week ministers from 187 nations are gathering in Poland to discuss a new treaty on global warming, and one of the central issues will be not belching smokestacks but cows, pigs, and chickens. Rising global living standards have led to soaring meat consumption; emissions from livestock now generate 18% of global greenhouse gases—more than cars or planes—and regulation remains lax.
As the New York Times reports, producing a pound of beef creates 100 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a pound of carrots. Measures under consideration run the gamut from high-tech fixes, such as burning manure for electricity, to green labeling for food and a "sin tax" on beef and pork. But without a global system, agricultural initiatives won't be competitive, notes one agriculturalist: "We’re worried that other countries not producing in a green way, like Brazil, could undercut us on price."