Climate tax on meat and milk results in less greenhouse gases

Jan 25, 2011

A climate tax corresponding to $80/ton CO2eq on meat and milk could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from European agriculture by around seven per cent. If the land made available is used for bioenergy production, the decrease in emissions can be six times greater. This is shown by the researchers Kristina Mohlin, Stefan Wirsenius and Fredrik Hedenus, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in an article published in the scientific journal Climatic Change.

Kristina Mohlin is a PhD student at the Department of Economics at the University of Gothenburg. She wrote the article together with her research colleagues at Chalmers University of Technology in connection with her degree project at the Department of Energy and Environment.

In the article, the researchers show that reduced , milk and egg consumption has two effects: a direct one which means significantly lower emissions of and nitrous oxide and an indirect one through land being made available which can be used for bioenergy cultivation.

Food production is a source that cannot be disregarded when considering – globally it accounts for 20-25 per cent of emissions. However, emissions from food are difficult to tax as the principal emission sources are methane from the stomachs of cows and from land to which fertiliser has been applied – both these emission sources are technically complicated and very costly to measure. There is also a lack of effective technical solutions to reduce these emissions. On the other hand, changed food habits can have a great impact. If beef is replaced by chicken, emissions decrease by 90 per cent, and if beef is replaced by beans the reduction is 99 per cent.

"A tax on the emissions from food production would normally be preferable. But as this is virtually impossible in practice, and the effects of switching away from meat and milk are so great, we show that it can be far more effective to apply the tax directly to the meat and milk consumption," says Stefan Wirsenius, a researcher in the Department of Energy and Environment at Chalmers.

Beef, which is responsible for the highest emissions per kg of meat, would be taxed higher under the proposal, while chicken and pork would be taxed lower as their emissions are lower.

"Today we have taxes on petrol and a trading scheme for industrial plants and power generation, but no policy instruments at all for food-related greenhouse gas emissions.

This means that we do not pay for the climate costs of our food," says Fredrik Hedenus, another researcher in the Department of Energy and Environment at Chalmers.

A climate tax on meat and milk would probably also mean that land becomes available for the growing of bioenergy crops.

"If the world decides on substantial reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, land will become a scarce resource, as a lot of land may be needed for bioenergy. Land-efficient food production and consumption will therefore become increasingly important. And beef production requires twenty times more land per kcal than beans," says Hedenus.

A tax equivalent to $80/ton CO2 (far less than half the current petrol taxes in many European countries) would according to the calculations reduce beef consumption by about 15 per cent.

"This tax is not at all a matter of forcing people to become vegetarians but merely moving towards a slightly more climate-smart diet," says Wirsenius.

Explore further: Climate change report identifies 'the most vulnerable'

More information: Climatic Change Title: Greenhouse gas taxes on animal food products: Rationale, tax scheme and climate mitigation effects. Authors: Stefan Wirsenius, Fredrik Hedenus, Kristina Mohlin

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User comments : 15

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JRDarby
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2011
I don't eat vegetarian meals every day (nor do I preach, unlike some) but I do attempt to strongly limit my meat consumption precisely because meat production contributes more to greenhouse gas production than automobile traffic, airline traffic, and other "common sense" sources of these gases, and because I want to limit my own contribution to emissions.

I am glad that this article is elucidating for some that may not know that meat production (and the consumption that encourages it) is a heavy producer of greenhouse gases.
bbd
4 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2011
Are we actually supposed to believe that a tax will reduce consumption? It just won't happen. People will simply pay the tax and continue to consume. And another question ... where will the proceeds from the tax collection go? Would it perchance be to fund further research? Maybe even within the Department of Economics at the University of Gothenburg? How convenient!
Quantum_Conundrum
3 / 5 (8) Jan 25, 2011
$80/ton of CO2 equivalent for food?

These people are completely INSANE.

Ddin't they already cover this by taxing Gasoline?

So in reality, they are suggesting taxing the CO2 for farms AGAIN at $80/ton CO2, just for the hell of it.

This is exactly why they don't want real progress in energy. They want to be able to tax people to oblivion on existing energy paradigm.

If someone actually invented clean energy, the government would lose this opportunity to tax $80/ton CO2.

Burning gallon of gas makes 19.4 pounds CO2, so they would be taxing gasoline at like 71 cents per gallon.

Why not go ahead and start sending the sheriff of nottingham to frisk and pillage everyone too while they're at it? They can even take the fillings right out of your teeth to pay for this one when it's implemented.

They'll put a meter on yur face and behind and count all the CO2 and methane leaving your body and tax that next.
Quantum_Conundrum
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2011
The irony is this is supposed to encourage people to have better eating habits and to use cleaner energy, but it makes both of those impossible, because "healthy" food usually costs twice as much anyway, and most of the existing "clean" energies cost so much more than gasoline and other energy sources that it would still be cheaper to just pay the tax.

Then, because they are being forced to pay a tax, their net income will be much lower, making it even harder for them to save money to invest in clean energy...
bmerc
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2011
If this was to ever come to pass does anyone in their right mind think that if this proposal was successful in getting people to stop eating meat products entirely that once the government was no longer getting the tax revenue from meat that they wouldn't start calling for another tax on something else to replace the tax revenue they were no longer getting from meat? Government and the left can always seem to find an evil that can be eliminated by imposing a tax, whether it is
CO2, alcohol consumption or drugs which their solution to the problem is to legalize and then tax.
ted208
2 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2011
What more can I say but TAX is the answer ti every thing for the AGW lunatics. Enough already!
Caliban
5 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
Or, the cattle could be put on a forage diet of grasses, which is their natural diet, and produces very little methane. It is the practice of feeding cattle grain(in order to fatten them more quickly) that is responsible for almost all of the methane. Grazing has the added bonus of providing its own fertilizer, so added nitrates are not needed. PROBLEM SOLVED -no tax necessary.

Pretty idiotic research, any way you look at it.
Quantum_Conundrum
2.5 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2011
Or, the cattle could be put on a forage diet of grasses, which is their natural diet, and produces very little methane. It is the practice of feeding cattle grain(in order to fatten them more quickly) that is responsible for almost all of the methane. Grazing has the added bonus of providing its own fertilizer, so added nitrates are not needed. PROBLEM SOLVED -no tax necessary.

Pretty idiotic research, any way you look at it.

Grains are in the grass family, and cow feed is often made from a significant portion of the "waste" of corn stalks,husks,and other plant material not used for human consumption.

From this perspective, the cows are actually consuming that which would otherwise rot and produce CO2 anyway. This is much more efficient than if they corn husks and stalks were simply wasted...

So if you did away with cows you'd be wasting a lot of the biomass of agriculture, because it's not useful for anything else anyway.
Taubus
5 / 5 (1) Jan 26, 2011
So if you did away with cows you'd be wasting a lot of the biomass of agriculture, because it's not useful for anything else anyway.

it is usefull for the production of heat and electricity..
Doug_Huffman
2.3 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2011
Engineering and social engineering through taxation, who would'a thunk it? Worse, it is a tired old canard here presented as a duckling!
Bog_Mire
3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
We all should switch to eating Kangaroo - a high protein low fat red meat which does not produce much methane and is easy to grow. We have twice as many roos here than people and that is without farming them. They taste alright but must be cooked rare.
Shootist
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 26, 2011
Climate Tax. The only purpose of which is to redistribute wealth from those who have to those that don't have. Communism, in a nutshell.
ennui27
4 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2011
Climate Tax. The only purpose of which is to redistribute wealth from those who have to those that don't have. Communism, in a nutshell.


A terrific idea .. but I fear you see too many 'commies' hiding under your bed.
Quantum_Conundrum
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 27, 2011
Climate Tax. The only purpose of which is to redistribute wealth from those who have to those that don't have. Communism, in a nutshell.


What are you talking about? Carbon taxes are a regressive tax, as energy cost is like 1/3rd of the mean income family's expenses, by the time you count primary energy costs adn feedback loops.

Energy cost is a tiny fraction of the expense or income for the very wealthy, because they make 10 or 100 times more, sometimes 1000s times more than anyone else.

What does some millionaire care if gasoline goes up 70 cents, he drove down the street and it cost him the EXACT same amount of money as it costed the average or low income person.

So the tax difference costed the normal person, relatively speaking, a significant portion of their income. It cost the millionaire some chump change that has no significant impact on his life.
Justsayin
1 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2011
The never ending need for power and control. The power to extract taxes at the point of a gun and control... to seemingly nudge people into their pointy headed intellectual utopian fantasy land of seven percent. This would be incrementalism at best and when it did not work a clarion call to arms for more and more taxes would be heard to save the planet all the while benefiting the orators, writers and politicians supporting this inefficient policy.