walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Climate Chickens
Inventing the Farm Animals of the Future

Crops are being genetically modified to withstand adverse conditions, but the effort doesn’t stop at the salad bar. Researchers are working on ways to genetically modify animals to be more resilient to the myriad changes our warming planet is said to be experiencing. As the LA Times reports, scientists are hard at work on making sure future generations will have meat on their plates, as well as GMO veggies:

Warmer temperatures can create huge problems for animals farmed for food. Turkeys are vulnerable to a condition that makes their breast meat mushy and unappetizing. Disease rips through chicken coops. Brutal weather can claim entire cattle herds. […]

[Michigan State University professor Gale Strasburg’s] research involves turning up the heat lamps several degrees on hundreds of turkey chicks, as well as on turkey eggs before they hatch. Researchers will then study the animals’ muscles and attempt to parse out genes that could help the animals endure hotter environments. The hope is ultimately to enable the industry to breed turkeys resilient to heat waves. […]

The scientists working to craft breeds of animals that can cope with a warmer climate argue that they, too, are focused on depleting fewer resources…At Oklahoma State University, scientist Megan Rolf says her efforts could result in herds of cattle that consume less water and feed…”The idea is to create animals that are more efficient,” Rolf said.

The environmentalist’s response is as predictable as it is misguided: carnivorous habits aren’t worth saving, and we should all become vegetarians. Of course, that’s never going to happen. Research has shown that this call to just eat kale is extremely divisive among the general population, to the point where it can lead to a backlash against the entire green movement.

In lieu of that, we’re best served pursuing ways to make our food supplies more efficient and more resilient. In addition to genetically modified chickens and turkeys, there is also encouraging progress being made in vat-grown meat, which according to the Economist “is estimated to use up to 45% less energy, 99% less land and 96% less water than farming, as well as to spew out 78-96% fewer greenhouse gases.”

Our climate is changing and humanity keeps growing. Those two trends are related to one another, but they also present a duel challenge, one of the biggest we will have to face in the coming decades: how do we feed the some 9 billion people estimated to be around by 2050 in a warmer world with more extreme weather? Most green efforts are spent on mitigating these two problems—that is, advocating against overpopulation and looking for ways to prevent our climate from changing. But there’s important work being done on how we adapt to these challenges, and given the lack of meaningful progress on the mitigation front, adaptation may be the smarter bet.

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  • rheddles

    The planet hasn’t warmed for about 15 years. When things start really chilling out what will the alarmists do? And how long will it take them?

    • Andrew Allison

      At least another 13 years, the newly moved goalpost for a signal being 30. Meanwhile, the disconnect between atmospheric CO2 and temperature since 1997 will continue to be studiously ignored.

  • Jim__L

    So how much per pound is vat-grown meat, and how does it taste?

    Also, as for “how do we feed the some 9 billion people estimated to be around by 2050 in a warmer world with more extreme weather?” — move farms northward into Siberia and Canada, where it’s easier to get fresh water. At 60 degrees north or so, atmospheric conditions lead to a great deal of rainfall, when it’s warm enough to stay liquid. I expect pipelines from northern Canada to be built to carry water, not oil, in the next few decades.

    • LarryD

      According to what I’ve read, vat meat tastes good enough, but the cost still needs to come down.

      If anything, weather has been less extreme for the past several years. Historically, warmer climate means better crop yields and larger extent of farmable land.

      The elits need to lead by example, let them show us a vegan, renewable energy, low-carbon life-style.

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