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THE DIET

Go vegetarian, cut carbon?

(adobe)

Bjorn Lomborg, the so-called “skeptical environmentalist,” has been irritating climate activists for years with his unorthodox pronouncements on what ails the planet. Yes, global warming is real, he says, but it doesn’t matter as much as you think — and many proposed solutions will do little to solve the problem.

Lomborg’s latest provocation: He’s challenging claims that vegetarianism, broadly adopted, would lead to big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. “Massively overhyped,” he recently wrote in the New York Post.

Meat production does lead to methane and other emissions. But diet is a small portion of one’s carbon footprint, argues Lomborg (who himself is a vegetarian). And because vegetarian fare is cheaper, consumers are likely to spend the savings on airplane flights and other CO2-heavy activities — canceling out some of the gain.

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Environmentalists retort that Lomborg doesn’t give enough weight to other factors, such as the destruction of vast swaths of forest to make way for pasture. Perhaps. But Lomborg’s basic point holds: We’re not going to save the planet just by eating more tofu.


David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe