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Switching to meatless diets in US would cut greenhouse-gas emissions

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Electing to not eat meat is a sure-fire way to reduce your impact on the environment.

The problem is that often, the diet that meets our nutritional needs isn’t ideal for the planet.

“You could eat nothing but yellow corn — a crop that’s grown in abundance, with reduced environmental impacts —but it would be catastrophic for your body to subsist on starch alone,” environmental researcher Gidon Eshel told Business Insider.

But in a study published today in Scientific Reports, Eshel and his team report that it’s possible to satisfy our nutritional needs without eating meat — and help the environment at the same time.

Read More:Our food system accounts for a whopping 37% of greenhouse-gas emissions, a UN report found. But it could also offer a solution to the climate crisis.

The researchers calculated that if every American replaced all beef, chicken, and pork in their diet with a vegetarian option, that would save the equivalent of 280 billion kilograms (280 million metric tons) of carbon dioxide every year. That’s roughly the total that the entire state of Ohio emits. Or, put another way, it’d be the same as taking about 60 million cars off the road.

The benefits of going meatless

The livestock industry has an enormous carbon hoof-print. According to The Conversation, cow, sheep, and poultry farming accounts for 18% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. That’s a larger chunk of emissions than those from ships, planes, trucks, and cars put together.

Livestock farming also degrades land and water and contributes to deforestation — 30% of land worldwide is currently used either for livestock farming or to grow grain to feed that livestock.

Wikimedia Commons

So Eshel’s team modeled what would happen if all Americans stopped eating meat (beef, poultry, and pork) and replaced it with plants that conferred the same nutrients in the same daily doses. Their results suggest that shift would reduce the amount of land needed to grow crops by 35% to 50% and eliminate the need for pastures.

By the numbers, replacing meat with plant alternatives would save approximately 29 million hectares (72 million acres) of crop land, 3 billion kilograms (6.6 billion pounds) of nitrogen fertilizer, and the equivalent of 280 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in the US.

Food-related water use in this situation, however, would rise by 15%.

These benefits arise because crop farming requires less land and less fertilizer (and because crops don’t emit methane, another potent greenhouse gas, the way cows do when they burp and fart).

Producing meat substitutes for a meatless diet emits about 80% less carbon than producing meat, Eshel said.

“The carbon-emissions cost is 3.5 kilograms per American per day for producing all the meat they need that day, and only about 0.6 kilograms for producing the meat’s replacement,” he added.

The plant-based diets that Eshel’s team used in their model mostly consisted of soy, green peppers, squash, buckwheat, and asparagus. These crops were picked because they were at least as nutritious, if not more beneficial, than the meats they replaced in terms of their contributions to people’s protein, vitamin, and fatty-acid needs.

A soybean field in Hardin County, Ohio.
Nyttend/Wikimedia Commons

The study authors reported that buckwheat and tofu, for example, could deliver one-third of the total protein in a meatless diet. Producing those foods would require only 12% of the nitrogen fertilizer and water and less than 22% of the cropland that would be needed to produce the meats they replaced.

“There’s something empowering about these results, because they offer people a sense of agency in terms of determining their own impact,” Eshel said.

The meatless meat industry

As planet-wide warming has accelerated ( July was the hottest month on record, ever), some climate-conscious individuals have turned their thoughts to the meat industry.

Shutterstock

In 2019, meat substitutes (particularly patties that look, smell, and ooze juice like beef burgers) soared in popularity. The alternative-meat market is set to reach $6.3 billion in revenue by 2023.

Read More: Most of the meat we eat won’t come from animals by the year 2040, according to a report

Impossible Foods, a leading producer of plant-based “meat-like” patties, has launched its Impossible Burger 2.0 in more than 7,000 restaurants worldwide. The product will be sold in all Burger King locations across the US (not to mention your local grocery store) by September.

Beyond Meat, another meat-free burger company, saw similar success: The company netted $40.2 million during its first quarter as a public company (between January and April), a 215% jump from the same period in 2018.

Global consultancy firm AT Kearney projects that by 2040, 60% of the “meat” products humans consume will either be plant-based replacements or lab-grown meats.

Eshel said studies like his are important in “reassuring the open-minded skeptics” that switching from meat- to meatless-diets won’t leave you lacking in nutrition.



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General Election: Labour MP says anti-Kremlin activists being targeted by Russian hackers

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  • An “unknown number” of anti-Kremlin journalists, activists and organisations in the UK have reportedly been targeted by the same hackers. 
  • The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre told Ben Bradshaw, a Labour politician targeted in the campaign, its investigation was ongoing. 
  • Investigative journalism website Bellingcat and reporter Carole Cadwalladr are understood to have been targeted. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

An “unknown number” of anti-Kremlin activists have reportedly been targeted by Russian hackers, according to British MP Ben Bradshaw. 

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre told Bradshaw a number of individuals and organisations, all critics of alleged Russian interference in foreign elections, had been targeted by the same campaign.

Bradshaw’s campaign team received an email purporting to be from a Russian government whistleblower, promising insider knowledge of the Kremlin’s operations.  Sky first reported news of the original email.

Business Insider understands that the NCSC has confirmed similar emails sent to Bellingcat, an investigative journalism website, and Carole Cadwalladr, an Observer reporter, came from the same source. 

Bradshaw, who has been an ardent campaigner against Russia’s alleged election meddling, told Business Insider: “I’m not surprised, given everything I’ve done trying to expose the subversion of our democracy. For me, this makes it all the more scandalous that Boris Johnson is still refusing to publish the independent report on Russian interference.” 

Business Insider previously reported Prime Minister Boris Johnson had apparently blocked a report into Russian interference in UK elections because it revealed “embarrassing” links between Conservative donors and the Kremlin. 

Business Insider approached the NCSC for comment. 

This is a developing story…



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Viral video shows people using ladder to climb US-Mexico border fence

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  • A viral video posted to Twitter shows people climbing the US-Mexico border wall and easily sliding down the other side. 
  • The clip was shot by J. Omar Ornelas, a bi-lingual photojournalist based in Palm Springs, California. It is unclear where or when the video was taken. 
  • In the video, three people are seen at the border fence. One of the people was able to easily slide down the fence’s slats like a fireman’s pole before quickly running away as a Border Patrol vehicle pulls up. 
  • President Donald Trump has been advocating for stronger protections along the US-Mexico border and has long promised to build a wall that could withstand migrant penetration. 
  • In September, he replaced a decaying portion of the wall in San Diego, California claiming that it was “virutally impossible” to scale. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A video showing people apparently climbing the US-Mexico border wall and easily sliding down the other side has gone viral on social media. 

The video was posted to Twitter by J. Omar Ornelas, a bi-lingual photojournalist based in Palm Springs, California, alongside the caption: “This is the newly replaced wall along the US/MEXICO border. #TheWall”

The clip shows three people at the border wall — one person at the bottom holding a ladder in place, and two people scaling the ladder.

One of the people was able to easily slide down the border fence’s slats like a fireman’s pole once they were over the fence’s ledge. The person then runs away, as what appears to be a Border Patrol vehicle pulls up. The two other people remove the ladder and remain on the Mexico side of the wall.

US Customs and Border Protection was not immediately available for comment.

The clip has since amassed over 2.1 million views and has been retweeted over 15,o00 times.

Ornelas did not include where the video was shot or when the video was taken, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

President Donald Trump has been advocating for stronger protections along the US-Mexico border and has long promised to build a wall that could withstand migrant penetration. 

Trump unveiled several prototypes of a border wall last year and they appeared to withstand attempts at scaling them. The prototypes at the time were made of concrete, steel, and other materials. 

No new border wall has been built since he’s been in office, though Trump did replace a decaying portion of the border partition with a 14-mile stretch of 18- to 30-foot slatted fence in September. When Trump visited the $147-million border wall replacement project in Otay Mesa, California, he called the design “amazing” and signed his name in Sharpie. 

Trump has said that climbing this iteration of the border wall is “virutally impossible.”

“I tell you this very strongly: No more people can come in,” he said during his visit. 

Recently, videos have emerged showing people as young as eight-years-old scaling an 18-foot replica of the wall. One man multiple was even able to climb the replica while juggling different items in one hand.

And in November, The Washington Post reported that smugglers based in Mexico are reportedly using power tools to cut large holes in the newly constructed wall. 



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Amazon Web Services’ Andy Jassy says JEDI ‘was not adjudicated fairly’

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Following Amazon’s legal challenge of the government’s handling of a $10 billion cloud contract, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy tried to make his case in the court of public opinion on Wednesday.

In a meeting with reporters, Jassy argued that the Pentagon’s decision to award that contract to Microsoft was not fairly made and was tainted by “significant political interference.”

“What I would say is that I think it’s fairly obvious that we feel pretty strongly that it was not adjudicated fairly,” Jassy told reporters at a press event at AWS re:Invent, Amazon’s cloud mega-conference in Las Vegas. “If you do a truly objective detailed apples-to-apples comparison of the platforms, you don’t end up in a spot where that decision was made.”

In October, Amazon was on the losing end of a major upset when it lost a crucial $10 billion Pentagon contract to Microsoft. Amazon Web Services was considered the frontrunner of the bid for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.

After the Department of Defense announced that Microsoft had won, AWS filed an official challenge in November over claims of “unmistakable bias.” During the bid for JEDI, President Donald Trump, who has an open feud with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post, which Bezos owns, reportedly said that he would look into the bidding process for the contract.

“We have a sitting president who is willing to share openly his disdain for a company and the leader of that company,” Jassy said. “It makes it really difficult for government agencies including the DoD to make an objective decision without a fear of reprisal.”

The line is almost identical to what Jassy said in an all-hands meeting with Amazon employees last month, according to a recording obtained by Business Insider. 

In his comments on Wednesday, Jassy added an appeal to patriotism and national security.

“We’re talking about the national security of our country and modernizing their technology platforms and the foundation on which all those applications are going to be used to protect our country,” Jassy said. “You have to make sure these decisions are made truly objectively.”

Previously, Jassy reportedly told employees that AWS is two years ahead of Microsoft, and he made these claims again on Wednesday.

“Most of our customers tell us that we’re a couple years ahead mostly in regards to functionality and maturity,” Jassy said.

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