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Climate Change»Is Obesity a factor in climate change?

»Monday, June 8,2009

Can the obese be blamed for global warming... Scapegoat anyone?

Echoing the famous slogan "fat is a feminist issue", Sir Jonathan, Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, said "fat is a climate change issue".

He pointed out overweight people eat more protein-rich food such as beef or lamb, which is responsible for producing greenhouse gases because of the toxic methane livestock emits. He also said obese people are more likely to use cars rather than walk or cycle, therefore producing more carbon emissions.

The former Green Party politician, who has caused controversy before by suggesting people should not have more than two children to prevent over-population, said the Government should be encouraging people who are above the recommended body mass index to lose weight not only to improve their health but to help the environment.

Almost 1 in 4 adults in England is currently obese, and if trends continue, by 2050, nine in 10 adults will be overweight or obese. BMI is calculated by dividing weight by height squared

In a lecture to representatives of the food industry, Sir Jonathan said obesity was costing the NHS an estimated £7.7 billion every year – nine per cent of its total budget. But he also said it was causing problems for the global environment.

"The World Health Organisation recently published some data showing that each overweight person causes an additional one tonne of CO2 to be emitted every year.," he said. "With one billion people judged to be overweight around the world – of whom at least 300 million are obese – that's an additional one billion tonnes."

The Co-Director of The Prince of Wales's Business and Environment Programme said the Government has not only to address the obesity issue but cut carbon emissions by at least 34 per cent by 2020.

He said the two issues should be tackled together by making sure nutritional guidelines point out the dangers to the environment of eating too much red meat, as well as the health implications.

And he said transport policy could encourage walking and cycling not only to cut carbon emissions but to improve health. Education should teach children about the environmental damage caused by overeating as well as the health implications and food policy can encourage people to eat more "low carbon" foods such as locally sourced fruit and vegetables.

"We should think of obesity as an environmental challenge as well as a health issue because of the negative impacts on the environment caused by overweight people and obesity as well as the problem it causes to their own health," he said.

Dr Tim Lobstein, director of policy at International Association for the Study of Obesity, agreed over-consumption is an environmental issue as well as a health problem, but said overweight people should not be victimised as a result.

"You cannot blame fat people for global warming - that is just victimisation - but there is a problem with food policy that has encouraged over-consumption and is spoiling the environment," he said.




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