Equilibrium & Sustainability

Equilibrium/Sustainability — Vegan diets healthier for dogs than kibble

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated a set of findings from Strava about women and cycling. The data shows women are less likely than men to bike and to commute to work by bike.

Dogs may have descended from wolves, but their health outcomes may be better when they eat more like goats, according to a study published Wednesday in PLOS One.  

The study compared about 2,500 dogs that were fed either commercial meat like kibble, raw meat or a vegan diet.  
 
Dogs on either the vegan or raw meat diets did better — fewer veterinary visits, health disorders or need for medication — than those that consumed commercial foods, the researchers wrote.  
 
But while dogs on raw meat appeared to be somewhat healthier than vegan dogs, dogs with such diets also tended to be younger and to have owners that took them to the vet less often. Researchers noted this could either mean they’re in better health, or that they’re not getting adequate care. 

While more study is needed to determine whether meat or vegan options are healthier, given the danger of foodborne illness and potential malnutrition that accompanies raw meat diets, the researchers argued that “nutritionally sound vegan diets” are “the heathiest and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs.” 

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Send us tips and feedback. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here. 

Today we’ll start with a large question: Does meeting the world’s climate goals require sacrificing its economic ones? Then we’ll look at how U.S. cities fail to incorporate gender equity considerations in their municipal climate plans.   

Economic growth and climate protection plan aren’t in conflict: studies

The economic benefits of cutting carbon emissions will take a couple of decades to materialize, but by midcentury, they will likely far outweigh the costs, a study in Oxford Open Climate Change has found. 
 
The study adds to existing data indicating that decarbonization and robust economic growth can happen at the same time, and that a majority of Americans want to see the environment protected even at the expense of economic growth. 
 
“Those benefits will be much higher than the transition costs for the next decades,” lead author Laurent Drout said in a statement. 
 
Costs versus benefits: The Oxford study simulated several different scenarios in which the world cuts greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming below either 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius (2.6 – 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). 
 
While decarbonization incurs substantial costs over the next 20 years under most scenarios, those are far outweighed by the damage avoided in the second half of the century, according to the study. And those benefits were particularly favorable for middle- and low-income countries, the study found. 
 
One surprising result: The economic results remained the same whether society limited warming to 2 degrees Celsius, or met the more ambitious and expensive goal of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius. 
 
The extra benefit of world temperatures that were half a degree lower more than made up for the added cost of getting there, researchers found. 

GROWTH CAN REMAIN STRONG IN ABSOLUTE TERMS, TOO

Wednesday’s study builds on additional research that suggests the choice between climate goals and economic ones may not be as stark as is sometimes presented. 

A study in Oxford Open Climate Change published last month found that decarbonization over the next century would also allow robust continuous growth in the economy.  

Even in that scenario — which still sees lower levels of per-capita growth than the current amount — the 2100 global economy would be five times the size of that in 2015, researchers found. 
 
An important caveat: That scenario assumes that the world rapidly quits coal and scales up significant use of carbon capture and storage technology to pull planet-warming greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. 
 
Carbon capture and storage technology still isn’t economically viable, although a compendium of tech and consulting companies — Meta, Alphabet, Shopify and McKinsey — just committed billions of dollars in investment to the first company that can pull it off, according to Cnet. 
 
Majority would trade economy for environment: Fifty-three percent of U.S. respondents said that protecting the environment should take precedence over economic growth, while 42 percent said the reverse, according to a Gallup poll published Monday. 
 
On specific proposals, the gap was even wider. For example: 

  • Nearly 90 percent backed tax credits for home solar systems 
  • 75 percent supported tax incentives to switch businesses to zero-carbon energy 
  • 71 percent supported higher fuel standards 
  • 62 percent favored “strict limits” on methane leaks 
  • About 60 percent favored both tax credits for electric vehicles, and the use of federal funds to build out a nationwide charging network. 

Political winds are changing: Many of these line-items were features of the now-defunct Biden Build Back Better program, Gallup noted. Republican opposition to similar proposals is driving away large swaths of the business community, E&E reported last week. 

Gender equity, family planning missing from US city climate plans: report  

American women and gender-diverse individuals are disproportionately affected by climate change, but municipal climate plans fail to address family planning or gender equity solutions, a new report has found.  

The report, released on Tuesday by the Center for Biological Diversity, looked at 21 climate plans in cities nationwide, whose total populations represent about 10 percent of the U.S. population. 

The authors found that none of the plans included family planning, contraception or reproductive health solutions, and that only Boston referred to gender equity as a climate change mitigation strategy.   

Investing in women and girls: “Societies are more resilient when governments invest in women and girls,” Kelley Dennings, a campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.  

“Gender-empowerment solutions to climate change risks, like sexual and reproductive health, benefit people and the planet,” she continued. “Population pressure makes it even harder to meet emissions-reductions targets and recover from climate-related catastrophes.” 

Consistent neglect: While the climate plans all included a range of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, the report found that they consistently neglected to address gender equity.  

But gender equity and empowerment initiatives are critical to fighting climate change, according to the report. The authors cited the nonprofit Project Drawdown, which has found that better health outcomes for women can strengthen the abilities of communities to adapt to climate change.  

International precedent: Including gender empowerment efforts in climate plans is by no means unprecedented, according to the study. The first internationally recognized “climate change gender action plan” was adopted at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP-23) in 2017, the authors stated.  

The U.N. action plan identified how women face greater risks when it comes to climate change impacts but are also equipped with unique tools to contribute to mitigation and adaptation efforts, according to the report.  

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE FOR A SUSTAINABLE PLANET

Forty-five percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Therefore, providing comprehensive reproductive healthcare would enable policymakers to give women the autonomy to determine whether they want to have children, the authors explained. This ability to choose then “makes the planet a more sustainable place for those already on it,” they argued.  

The authors also cited the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has deemed climate change “an urgent women’s health issue.”  

Which cities were evaluated in the study? Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; New York; Newton, Mass.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; San Antonio and Seattle.  

The years their climate plans were written ranged from as early as 2008 for Kansas City to 2021 for Albuquerque and Lincoln.  

And the one city to mention gender-based initiatives? Boston, which offers a “Women Bike” program to teach female and nonbinary Bostonians to ride bicycles,  according to the city’s 2019 climate plan.  

In general, women are less likely to bike and are specifically less likely to bike to work than men, data from the exercise tracking service Strava showed. 

The Center for Biological Diversity researchers described the Boston bike program as “a great example of a climate solution that falls at the intersection of public health and public transportation.”  

Long-term benefits to the planet: They called upon other cities, however, to include such gender-based strategies and solutions in their climate plans, stressing that doing so “will provide long-term benefits to people, wildlife and the planet.”  

“Decreasing population pressure by providing comprehensive, convenient and affordable reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is key to mitigating the long-term effects of climate change and bolstering conservation,” Dennings said.  

To read the full story, please click here

Water Wednesday 

Mudslides in South Africa; drought in Spain; hurricanes all over. 

Floods, mudslides leave dozens dead in South Africa 

  • Heavy rains and subsequent mudslides on the eastern coast of South Africa left at least 45 people dead as “vacation homes and shacks alike were swept away in a part of the country known as a getaway for its sun,” The New York Times reported. 

Drought-plagued Spanish farmers bring back medieval Moorish canals 

  • Alternating periods of fierce droughts and sudden, intense rainfall in Spain’s Sierra Nevada have led local farmers to work with the University of Granada to resurrect a 1,000 year-old irrigation network that was built as part of the “Islamic agricultural revolution,” The Guardian reported. 

Human-induced climate change impacting hurricane severity: study 

  • Hourly hurricane rainfall totals rose 10 percent higher during the 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season, compared to hurricanes in the pre-industrial (1850) era, a new study from Stony Brook University has found. The study, published in Nature Communications, determined that climate change contributed to the change in rainfall totals. 

Please visit The Hill’s sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you on Thursday. 

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