To eat Skippy or not to eat Skippy, that seems to be the question. But of course, it wasn't the question we were interested in at all. Not sure what i'm talking about? Well, it is a simple story about kangaroos, climate change and what Greenpeace said...or didn't say, as it turns out.
Climate change - it seems no matter where you turn these days someone, even politicians, are talking about the biggest threat to the planet. That's good, climate change needs to be discussed.
But far more than discussion, what we really need now is action. Right now, not tomorrow, not next week, now.
So in the spirit of taking action, Greenpeace Australia-Pacific part-funded a study called "Paths to a Low Carbon Future" authored by Dr Mark Diesendorf of the Sustainability Centre. The study aimed to find out how Australia could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, if action was taken now. The good news is that, yes, it can be done!
For those who want to know what the study said, some of the key results are below, but for those only interested in the kangaroo question, the answer is simple. Greenpeace did NOT say that people should eat more kangaroos.
What the study said:
The "Paths to a Low Carbon Future" study details two scenarios to cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
The first scenario explores the more obvious measures like increasing energy efficiency, switching to solar hot water heaters and increasing the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar photovoltaic (solar panels). The total reductions in greenhouse gases would be around 13 per cent below 1990 levels.
The second scenario includes additional measures to further decrease Australia's greenhouse gases such as removing all greenhouse gas emissions from aluminium production, ending land clearing and changing the way Australia uses agricultural land.
The aluminium smelting industry which turns aluminium-bearing ore into pure aluminium consumes around 13 per cent of Australia's entire electricity supply. Eliminating energy-related emissions from this energy-hungry industry could be achieved by switching over to renewable energy.
Ending land clearing is an obvious step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the fact that it hasn't already happened gives an idea of how far behind the rest of the world Australia is in its attempts to tackle climate change.
But the climate change action on which a few people have focused was an option for a change in the use of agricultural land. In particular, the three lines that said, "...this report proposes to reduce beef consumption by 20 per cent, as this agricultural sector makes the biggest contribution to Australia's methane emissions. This could be accomplished by shifting to kangaroo meat and/or lower-meat diets."
As Dr Mark Diesendorf of the Sustainability Centre has pointed out, reducing beef consumption could be accomplished in more than one way and indeed many more ways can be listed other than eating kangaroos. And just to reiterate, Greenpeace does not endorse eating kangaroos nor is it advocating eating kangaroos as a solution to climate change.
Australia needs to dramatically reduce its emissions: it's the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Changing agricultural practices in Australia is an important component of any climate change response but it ranks towards the bottom of the required measures when compared to greenhouse gas savings from energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Solving climate change requires every possible solution to be examined. Immediate action is required. But, as far as Greenpeace is concerned, eating Skippy isn't a climate change solution.
Dr Mark Diesendorf is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales and a director of the Sustainability Centre.
The original report can be found here (pdf - 284 KB)