Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.
[Stern] predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable.
Matt talked recently about why subsidising agriculture is a bad idea, so I don’t want to rehash those arguments. What really baffles me is why Stern feels that changes in peoples’ attitudes are important. If we price greenhouse gasses, and other natural resources, appropriately then there is no need to worry about peoples’ attitudes. As Stern says, meat is far more environmentally costly to produce, so its price will rise. Meat will become a luxury that most can’t afford to eat on a daily basis. That’s something that will happen whether people consciously make a choice to become vegetarian or not.
Will attitudes then shift? I don’t see any reason to think that meat will become unfashionable because it is more expensive. I would imagien that the opposite will happen: meat will become the fancy food that you serve on special occasions because it is too expensive to eat regularly.
So why is attitudinal change important? Public support for pricing natural resources appropriately is essential if politicians are to pass enabling legislation. It’s hard to see many governments passing deeply unpopular legislation, at a significant cost, in order to protect the environment. The argument over meat is a storm in a teacup. The overarching question is whether we have the political motivation to price carbon, and other greenhouse gasses. If we can sort that out then nobody has to worry about taking a moral stand on vegetarianism, leather shoes or any other ‘trendy greenie’ issues.