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COP26 Delegates and Their Partial Carbon Footprint

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Message Arshad M Khan

The largest meeting room at the COP26 (October 31- November 12) venue in Glasgow holds 147. As there are 197 members, everyone cannot attend the plenary sessions. Is that by accident or design? The major players will be there, of course. Perhaps the pesky ocean islanders whose countries are being reclaimed gradually by the seas are not fully welcome.

As the limousines purr back and forth from the best hotels, one question to ask is how did the European delegates travel to Glasgow? Europe has a comprehensive rail network including high-speed rail and Britain offers overnight travel in sleeper comfort between London and Glasgow. All of which is not as convenient as a short airplane hop from Europe. And changing trains arriving at Victoria station from the Continent to those leaving for Glasgow from King's Cross (nearly 5 miles away) is quite a hassle. So how can one possibly blame them for flying!

Then there is the food to nourish our luminaries. Scotland is proud of its Black Angus beef, famous for its marbling and succulence, and no doubt it is on the menu. The French delegates used to nibbling small servings of different courses or the Italians downing copious quantities of spaghetti with almost meatless sauce are going to be surprised at the British tradition of soup, main course (in this case with lashings of roast beef) and a filling pudding with mustard. That is the British way and prime Black Angus is delicious.

It seems churlish to throw cold water on the gastronomic delights of our delegate sitting down to dinner but the facts intrude. Beef is nearly five times more polluting than chicken and about thirty times worse than lentils. And as we all know a vegetarian or low-meat diet is heart healthier. It is also not impossible to cut back on beef.

Absent imminent danger, humans have a tendency to be blase' about the threats that experts expect in the future. Yes, in the case of climate change, there has been an increase in catastrophic events like forest fires and flooding. But these affect few people in proportion to the total world population, and might well have been missed unless one paid close attention to world news.

Then there is human reasoning: If the threat was serious, wouldn't the government have stopped the sale of large SUVs instead of letting them become best sellers? There is a certain logic in the reasoning, plus continuing to live as one has for years is easiest. For example, who wants to become vegetarian? No one ... unless that someone is in Arnold Schwarzenegger's shoes. He follows an almost completely vegetarian diet, having had hypertension since his 40s and a couple of heart surgeries in the past few years. One wishes him well.

The only takeaway from all this is not to leave it too late. And the pat on one's back is the contribution towards lessening global warming.

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
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