AL GORE ON MEAT AND GLOBAL WARMING.

Responding to a questioner: "One of the factors right now in the global trends of the food crisis is the increasing meat intensity of the diet in countries like China that are imitating the diet the US has long had. It is true that it would be healthier for us as individuals and as a planet if we consumed less meat. I acknowledge that. There's an undercurrent in the question, and you didn't say it, of why it hasn't been a more prominent part of the conversation so far. i plead guilty, and I guess I'd say there is only so much that we can do at once. I myself am a meat eater and maybe that's had some effect. But I want to acknowledge forthrightly that this is a significant part of what needs to be done, but we have to walk before we can run."

Lots of folks with a prominent place in the national dialogue live in urban centers with strong public transit infrastructures, so they can imagine a world where we don't need cars. Many more have a futurist bent, and they can imagine a world where the Prius looks absurdly inefficient, and so they can imagine a world where our cars run on hydrogen, or good intentions. But fairly few national players are vegetarians. And meat consumption isn't an issue that really lends itself to technological fixes: You reduce the carbon footprint of food production -- which is a larger than that of transportation -- by reducing the role of beef in the global diet, not by feeding cows hydrogen-based grain. Worse, meat is tied up in all sorts of lifestyle liberalism issues, and leaders like Gore, who are extremely sensitive to the critique that this crusade is about imposing liberal cultural preferences rather than averting climatological disaster, work very hard to defuse those attacks.

But none of those complaints invalidate the questioner's point: The intensity of meat in our diet is a huge contributor to global warming, and folks who think this the transcendent challenge of our age are undermining their own argument when they refuse to mention it. Gore plays up the political difficulties of advocating for vegetarianism, but there's a smarter, middle path: If you price carbon, and you rob meat of the massive corn and grain and land subsidies that make it artificially cheap, the market will begin to correct itself in a way that naturally balances the facts that folks -- myself included -- like burgers and the fact that producing burgers is pretty energy intensive. The problem isn't that people eat meat, but that we've made meat much cheaper than it actually is. Make meat cost what it should cost, and diets will shift to reflect that. Make it so cheap that cheeseburgers cost less than dollar, and people will eat a lot of it. It's the same critique folks like Gore make of SUVs and oil, and there's no reason not to expand it. You can deal with meat without advocating vegetarianism.