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Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air: Change Your Diet: The Easiest Way to Help Save the Planet

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A quarter of our carbon emissions comes from food. This accessible description of how food and climate change are connected, inspired by the author's former mentor David Mackay (Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air), steers clear of emotive words to focus on facts. (The e-book version is free, thanks to funding from the University of Manchester.) From breakfast to lunch, A quarter of our carbon emissions comes from food. This accessible description of how food and climate change are connected, inspired by the author's former mentor David Mackay (Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air), steers clear of emotive words to focus on facts. (The e-book version is free, thanks to funding from the University of Manchester.) From breakfast to lunch, snacks to supper, Professor Bridle outlines the climate impact of the food we eat, how food production contributes to climate change and how climate change impacts food production.


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A quarter of our carbon emissions comes from food. This accessible description of how food and climate change are connected, inspired by the author's former mentor David Mackay (Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air), steers clear of emotive words to focus on facts. (The e-book version is free, thanks to funding from the University of Manchester.) From breakfast to lunch, A quarter of our carbon emissions comes from food. This accessible description of how food and climate change are connected, inspired by the author's former mentor David Mackay (Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air), steers clear of emotive words to focus on facts. (The e-book version is free, thanks to funding from the University of Manchester.) From breakfast to lunch, snacks to supper, Professor Bridle outlines the climate impact of the food we eat, how food production contributes to climate change and how climate change impacts food production.

30 review for Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air: Change Your Diet: The Easiest Way to Help Save the Planet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    My first impression here was that S L Bridle was going to have to work very hard to recover from the subtitle, which is painfully inaccurate. (Spoiler alert for those who don't like suspense - thankfully, the book is a lot better than the subtitle.) The subtitle reads 'Change your diet: the easiest way to help save the planet.' Firstly, the planet does not need saving from climate change. A good number of species are put at risk by climate change and human civilisation could be severely traumatis My first impression here was that S L Bridle was going to have to work very hard to recover from the subtitle, which is painfully inaccurate. (Spoiler alert for those who don't like suspense - thankfully, the book is a lot better than the subtitle.) The subtitle reads 'Change your diet: the easiest way to help save the planet.' Firstly, the planet does not need saving from climate change. A good number of species are put at risk by climate change and human civilisation could be severely traumatised, but the planet will be just fine. It's gone through far worst in the past. Second, changing diet isn’t easy. Not at all. As Bridle makes clear, one longhaul flight has the same impact as a whole year of food consumption, while even a shorthaul flight contributes a similar amount of greenhouse gasses as the change that could be made by a transformed diet. It's much easier to not take one flight than it is to change several meals a day. (Of course it's best to do both - but it doesn't make sense to claim that changing diet is the easiest way to make a difference.) Luckily, when we get onto the presentation of the facts in this big, glossy, full colour book, things are much better. (Incidentally, doesn't being a big, glossy, full colour book have more climate impact than being a small, non-glossy, black and white book?) I really like the way that Bridle assembles the greenhouse gas emissions from the different aspects that go into things we eat and drink, from making a cup of tea or coffee to typical meals through the day. It is clearly explained and well illustrated with charts. This does really help readers to think through the way that their eating actions cause greenhouse gas emissions and how, for example, eating less meat could have a positive impact. If I have one criticism here, it is that the numbers are rather plucked out of the air, and are over-simplistic when dealing with what can be quite complex factors. So, for example, Bridle says that my electricity use implies burning coal or gas and hence significant emissions, which are factored into the impact of my tea, coffee and cooked meals. But in the UK, we hardly burn any coal now, and my energy company assures me that my electricity is 100 per cent from renewables - so why is this true? These kind of points need more rounding out to make sense to the reader. I'd also say that after you've seen the details on a few meals, things get a bit similar. There are plenty of other aspects to bring in, of course. Greenhouse gas emissions from animals and from food waste, for example. But the format of describing what goes into meal after meal isn't ideal. Again, we could have done with some more detail. So, for example, there's much debate over whether having sheep on grassland that can't be used to raise crops is or isn't better than not having them. Similarly, in There is No Planet B, Mike Berners-Lee does a great job of breaking down how food waste happens and how to reduce it, where here we get a lot less of that detail (even though this is a lot bigger book). I liked this book and the ideas it was putting across, but for me it could have been significantly better.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Woolmer

    This book is written in the same style as "Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air", and is equally useful, down to earth and practical. As food production causes 25% of global warming gases it is the tool that we need to make informed choices that can really make a big and significant difference. The choice of the units of measurement is rather neat and convenient; for example 1g bread = 0.8g emissions, or 1g butter = 8g emissions! Each food group covered has several sections - a friendly overvi This book is written in the same style as "Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air", and is equally useful, down to earth and practical. As food production causes 25% of global warming gases it is the tool that we need to make informed choices that can really make a big and significant difference. The choice of the units of measurement is rather neat and convenient; for example 1g bread = 0.8g emissions, or 1g butter = 8g emissions! Each food group covered has several sections - a friendly overview, followed by key points and then some concise technical notes. The layout is very attractive and much use is made of coloured bar charts. There is also some basic and clear information about the causes of climate change. This book deserves to be on the shelves of all who have even the remotest interest in doing something positive about climate change by making some changes to their diets, and it will probably become iconic. Christopher Woolmer

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jen Hall

    Clear and interesting, without judgement. Providing information on the difference we can make, and what the world needs us to do. Nothing is ever simple, but this book makes the information simple. Then we have to make our own choices.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sue Chant

    A well presented and thorough examination of food's contribution to climate change, from land-clearance, through production, transport, packaging and waste. She uses the model of high, average, and low impact versions of meals and snacks and incorporates masses of references and a large bibliography. A well presented and thorough examination of food's contribution to climate change, from land-clearance, through production, transport, packaging and waste. She uses the model of high, average, and low impact versions of meals and snacks and incorporates masses of references and a large bibliography.

  5. 5 out of 5

    N Gardener

    As a mountaineer who has seen the massive retreat of glaciers I am deeply troubled about climate change. Having worked in the chemical industry I am well aware of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy and the urgent need to become more sustainable. As James Lovelock says, “we are now so abusing the Earth that it may rise and move back to the hot state it was in fifty-five million years ago”. I am a great fan of David MacKay’s book ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’. In one o As a mountaineer who has seen the massive retreat of glaciers I am deeply troubled about climate change. Having worked in the chemical industry I am well aware of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy and the urgent need to become more sustainable. As James Lovelock says, “we are now so abusing the Earth that it may rise and move back to the hot state it was in fifty-five million years ago”. I am a great fan of David MacKay’s book ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’. In one of his chapters he discussed the energy efficiency of various foods. Sarah Bridle takes this further. In ‘Food and Climate Change, Without the Hot Air’ she translates growing, transporting and cooking food into the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions as a way to assess and reduce the impact of food on our climate. With around one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions caused by food I want to understand more about why that is so. I believe this book is going to help me answer the question: what practical action shall I take. The author writes in an easy, conversational style. As a professor of astrophysics Sarah Bridle clearly knows her science. She is also down-to-earth when it comes to food. Arriving at greenhouse gas emissions as carbon dioxide equivalent values is a complex issue. She does not duck that and explains her assumptions – you can make your own adjustments if you have the data. Using numbers and charts she builds profiles of popular Western foods and compares those with what is sustainable. At each step we are given the facts - “without the hot air” of emotion, vested interests and bad science. But that doesn’t mean it’s dull. Far from it. This is a book that non-specialist readers of all ages should enjoy. The book allows us to visualise what happens to food on its journey from the land to the table. Children may be interested to learn that the methane from cows comes mostly from burps not farts - with an explanation of why this applies to cows but not elephants. More technical details of cows’ emissions and other explanations are included as end-notes to each chapter. It’s not all about cows. The book includes challenging issues such as de-forestation, fertilisers and fossil fuel use for transport and cooking. Don’t expect a simple solution. The book doesn’t tell you what to eat; it highlights what you can do to reduce emissions. The good thing is that low emission food also tends to be good for health and ethical reasons. You might go the whole hog: the book shows you how to build a profile of emissions for your own meals. You might decide to adjust what you normally eat, throw away less and keep your treats. But read the book. Tell others. It’s not all bad news for latte-lovers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rod Lambert

    In the spirit of David MacKay’s (Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air) injunction that “we need numbers not adjectives” to direct our efforts to curb climate change, Sarah Bridle takes us on a journey through the food a typical person (resident in the UK?) might choose to eat in a day.Why? Because what goes in our mouths is completely under our control whereas, for instance, closing a fossil-fuelled power station seems completely beyond reach. And, it turns out, the contribution of food to cli In the spirit of David MacKay’s (Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air) injunction that “we need numbers not adjectives” to direct our efforts to curb climate change, Sarah Bridle takes us on a journey through the food a typical person (resident in the UK?) might choose to eat in a day.Why? Because what goes in our mouths is completely under our control whereas, for instance, closing a fossil-fuelled power station seems completely beyond reach. And, it turns out, the contribution of food to climate change is considerable – approximately 25% of the CO2-e emissions across the planet come from the production, transport and consumption of food for human consumption. That amounts to about 6 kg CO2-e per person-day. Therefore our author sets herself the task of finding what would be needed to halve this level of emission. I liked the idea of addressing the task on a meal-by-meal (or snack) basis. Professor Bridle has not written an encyclopaedia of emissions attributable to food, but rather confined herself to a few food choices that people consuming a “western” diet might make. She breaks these down into high, typical and low emissions choices which are very effectively illustrated by the accompanying stack charts. A minor quibble is that there are mistakes with some of the units; eg, kWh instead of kW. (Sorry, once a physicist always a physicist.) The bibliography is extensive with a large number of URLs (mostly to photo sources but also to IPCC reports) and citations to all the scientific literature Professor Bridle studied in the writing of this book – and that’s a lot! I also liked that the book can be read in various manners. Readers-in-hurry can understand the main points from a study of the stack plots accompanied by reading the end-of-chapter key points and summary. For those not in such a hurry the text is very readable and relatable. The appendices add to the general story. The committed reader will want to read the end notes for each chapter as these expand on points made in the main text. This book won’t “save the planet” as its subtitle suggests as the planet does not need saving, but the biosphere needs a lot of remediation. The book presents some ways in which we can take part in that remediation.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Amy

    Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air successfully manages to incorporate the latest research into the environmental impact of our diet into very accessible, readable prose. It's a practical reference guide, that every climate-aware person can read and keep in the kitchen, use to inform their children and could even take on a trip to the supermarket. It's not dictatorial, doesn't try to convert the reader to veganism, but instead informs the reader with choices backed up by clear visual ch Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air successfully manages to incorporate the latest research into the environmental impact of our diet into very accessible, readable prose. It's a practical reference guide, that every climate-aware person can read and keep in the kitchen, use to inform their children and could even take on a trip to the supermarket. It's not dictatorial, doesn't try to convert the reader to veganism, but instead informs the reader with choices backed up by clear visual charts that break down emissions of ingredients in different meal options. As one of many people increasingly concerned with the bleak predictions of the ongoing climate emergency, I had already significantly altered my diet in order to reduce my emissions impact. I had reduced my meat consumption and switched to local produce. However, all I had to go on were gut instincts based on vague and out-of-date articles I'd read. Food and Climate Change without the Hot Air changed all that. The thing is, reading it, I realised it's very well researched. It provides all references, and also offers depth, taking into account not only food production, but transportation and changes in land use. The result is that I was often surprised that foods I thought were ok turned out to be a problem for unexpected reasons, and that foods I'd been avoiding altogether were actually no big deal. This information really helps reduce anxiety when making choices. Another great thing about the book is the "key points" in each section. These are clear and easy to remember, making it easy to make a big difference.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joakim Haraldsson

    There are several things that I like about the book. The book is written in a way so it is easy to grasp. It is interesting to see how much large climate impact different foods have. But also to see what is important to focus on, e.g. beef has among the highest emissions while packaging aren’t as bad for the climate as we think. I like that all meals during the day are included and that three examples are provided for each meal (e.g. a typical-emissions breakfast, a higher-emissions breakfast an There are several things that I like about the book. The book is written in a way so it is easy to grasp. It is interesting to see how much large climate impact different foods have. But also to see what is important to focus on, e.g. beef has among the highest emissions while packaging aren’t as bad for the climate as we think. I like that all meals during the day are included and that three examples are provided for each meal (e.g. a typical-emissions breakfast, a higher-emissions breakfast and a lower-emissions breakfast). One benefit is that a webtool has been developed based on the book (see http://newmillscomputer.ltd/stack/ind...) which give you the opportunity to play around yourself. There are some opportunities for improvement in the book. More foods can be added to both the book and the webtool so they become more comprehensive. It would be good to have a table somewhere in the book that provide an overview of the GHG emissions of all specific foods and dishes presented in the book. Overall, I really appreciate the book. It provides information needed for the individual to make informed choices about their food and help the individual to reduce the climate impact from the food they eat. The opportunities for improvements identified in the previous paragraph are something that can be fixed in potential future editions of the book. I would recommend everyone to read the book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kaja

    Food and Climate Change - Without the Hot Air by S.L. Bridle aims to inform the reader on the impacts our food choices have on the environment. S.L. Bridle has a background in Astrophysics at The University of Manchester and offers up a well-researched book about food emission. The book is written with its roots in facts and science without a "diet-agenda." Instead, you can make up your own mind based on what you've learned. The book covers the products from farming, through processing, shipping- Food and Climate Change - Without the Hot Air by S.L. Bridle aims to inform the reader on the impacts our food choices have on the environment. S.L. Bridle has a background in Astrophysics at The University of Manchester and offers up a well-researched book about food emission. The book is written with its roots in facts and science without a "diet-agenda." Instead, you can make up your own mind based on what you've learned. The book covers the products from farming, through processing, shipping- and cooking method(s). It operates in 1g (of product) = x g emission (per gram of product). As the less-than-average math-enthusiast, this simple way of presenting the information makes it even possible for me to follow along. Surprisingly, not all of what we generally believe is a better choice for the climate actually is. One thing that astonished me was that driving to your local farmer's market in a fossil-fueled car can create more CO2 than if you bought apples or a box of strawberries in the store. The way a product is shipped is actually a big factor in how much it creates in total. In addition, a out-of-season product will generally be harder on the climate than eating seasonally. Nevertheless, shipping information is not easily accessible on the product in-store and exact numbers vary between each specific supply chain. Food and climate change operate with a target of 3kg emission daily food-budget per person. This is the global average. The normal western consumer emits about 6kg emission daily from our food habits. If we add food waste that goes to landfill (not composted properly), we have an additional 1kg each day. Food makes up ¼ of the greenhouse-gas emissions in the world each year. 50% of our total food waste comes from our own households. While this book has an aspect of consumer responsibility, it also states that political and international changes have to happen to "fix" this issue at its root. However, consumer's political and economic influence does have a role to play in showing the people in power what we want and to get them to do it by, among others, voicing our wishes through demand. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to become more aware of how much impact different foods make and how you can tweak your food choices to eat more sustainable. It uses simple diagrams that help you understand the content much easier. The book can work as a little encyclopedia of food emissions. You can take the numbers you need from different dishes and add them up so they fit your own meals. This book appears to me to be comprehensible for the average English reader (largely due to the easy access to the information based on the diagrams). Still, I am here wishing it covered more common items and product ranges. Maybe that opens for a potential second book in the series, who knows? I very much enjoyed it. * All diagrams use the same size scale. Technically could print them out and use them as your scrapbook meal-emission guide, or as an interactive way to present the information to others. Rating: 4\5 stars. ** I got accepted to join the Book Buzz Group for the release of Food and Climate Change - without the Hot Air by S.L. Bridle. I only inquire about books I have a genuine interest in reading and review as honestly as I can. By joining the Book Buzz Group, I received a free review e-copy of the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Slater

    A book for both beginner and expert alike. Sarah bridle knows how to explain numbers clearly to readers. Just by looking at the pictures, It is easy to see where you can make changes to what you eat to lower your impact on the planet. As it is based around meals you can look up the food you are interested in. However it worth reading the whole book to discover more about where and how our impact is generated. It is well researched and does not avoid discussing common misbeliefs about farming and fo A book for both beginner and expert alike. Sarah bridle knows how to explain numbers clearly to readers. Just by looking at the pictures, It is easy to see where you can make changes to what you eat to lower your impact on the planet. As it is based around meals you can look up the food you are interested in. However it worth reading the whole book to discover more about where and how our impact is generated. It is well researched and does not avoid discussing common misbeliefs about farming and food production. If you are interested in food, food production or climate change this book is worth a look (and the e-book is free on Kindle).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sheona Foley

    A wonderfully engaging book, accessible to everyone who wants to figure out how sustainable their food is and what kind of carbon emissions are embedded in the food choices we make every day. This is a book for everyone but I hope to borrow some of its ideas and wealth of information to use for teaching in the culinary arts. In addition to sourcing beautiful, delicious and quality ingredients, this book will help in choosing and sourcing more sustainable food.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Lord

    This book is about one of our biggest contributors to climate change: the food that we all eat. Sarah has a fascinating approach to just how our individual greenhouse gas “stack” adds up as we go through the day and the simple steps that might be taken to reduce it – minimise waste, reduce meat and dairy, avoid air freight. Lively, not preachy and ideas for everyone about keeping food tasty and improving our planet’s and our own health. There’s even a glass of wine at the end of it!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Georgia Orwell

    Reading this book is like having a conversation with a friend who, like you, wants to make more 'climate conscious' choices when it comes to food - except this friend has all the data laid out in easy-to-digest (pardon the pun) detail. As well as being an important book, this is a great read which has earned a permanent place in our kitchen - we will refer to it often, especially as our children start asking questions about the things we choose to feed our family with. Highly recommend. Reading this book is like having a conversation with a friend who, like you, wants to make more 'climate conscious' choices when it comes to food - except this friend has all the data laid out in easy-to-digest (pardon the pun) detail. As well as being an important book, this is a great read which has earned a permanent place in our kitchen - we will refer to it often, especially as our children start asking questions about the things we choose to feed our family with. Highly recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Derek Winterburn

    This book is crystal clear in explaining how the food we eat contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The author sets out the issues and then works through a day's food and drink calculating the effect on the CO2 levels for each item. An eye-opener and life-changing. And the book is free as a Kindle download. This book is crystal clear in explaining how the food we eat contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The author sets out the issues and then works through a day's food and drink calculating the effect on the CO2 levels for each item. An eye-opener and life-changing. And the book is free as a Kindle download.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joseph S

    Really interesting book. Very tempted to get the paperback. Great for me to learn lots of different areas that my food emissions come from. Would like to refer to when looking at recipes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    A brilliant and informative book on how our food choices impact climate change. This book gives examples of ordinary and common meals, their typical emissions, and how to lower them. It doesn't give an answer with regards to 'the best diet' or tell you what to eat, but rather gives you the knowledge of what foods tend to have high emissions and why, and it's up to you with what to do with this information. The layout is very easy to follow and each chapter includes some easy to compare charts of A brilliant and informative book on how our food choices impact climate change. This book gives examples of ordinary and common meals, their typical emissions, and how to lower them. It doesn't give an answer with regards to 'the best diet' or tell you what to eat, but rather gives you the knowledge of what foods tend to have high emissions and why, and it's up to you with what to do with this information. The layout is very easy to follow and each chapter includes some easy to compare charts of what causes the higher emissions in certain meals. I enjoyed learning about which foods cause high emissions and how to alter my diet accordingly to reduce my impact on climate change. The book ends off nicely with a few words on vegetarian and vegan diets, how the government can help reduce our food emissions, and hope for the future. It really is a great book to discover more about food and climate change. A definitely read for everyone who eats food - that's everyone!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paula Rivett

    Clear and informative, thought provoking about the environmental impact of our food.

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Firth

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pooja N Babu

  20. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Hopkins

  21. 5 out of 5

    Spacecoyote2000

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marc Buckley

  23. 5 out of 5

    Martin Whitworth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mehdi attar

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aiman Haris

  27. 5 out of 5

    Martijn

  28. 4 out of 5

    Whippet mom

  29. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte Neal

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maria Spillane

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