Climate Diet

A New Year’s Climate Diet

By Paul Greenberg

New York Times Dec. 31, 2019


Dr. AC: Good Gracious . . . my cognitive resources are altogether underwhelmed. I just consumed Mr. Paul Greenberg’s New Year’s Opinion Piece in the New York Times, called A New Year’s Climate Diet. Have you read it, EGB?

Dr. EGB: Well, when you read something, don’t I also? I mean, we’re two parts of a whole aren’t we? And what’s that about cognitive resources? Do you mean bandwidth?

Dr. AC: Bandwidth is mere urban slang. And, we could debate who we really are endlessly, but back to my point! Apparently, swamped and stressed AmeriCanadians are worried they might literally be asked to DO something about their own greenhouse gas emissions! Maybe hurl a few less steaks and hamburgers on the deluxe grill, essay a few more wings?  Quaff some authentic eau de tap instead of shipping off to Costco for another trunk-full of the plastic bottled stuff? Rethink those lucrative investments in the oil and gas industry? Eschew OS updates and cling to the ever-more-obsolete cell phone for another season or more while helping to upgrade a forest instead? Oh . . . wait a minute . . . here’s a great one: leave the gas guzzler all alone in the garage for twenty-four long hours each week? But that’s pretty much nothing. AmeriCanadians will just take their beloved out for extraneous rides the day before! Does this guy Greenberg not realize we are confronting a climate emergency?

Dr. EGB: Eschew?? Essay?? Wow. Hey, AC, give poor Paul a break. He gets it, but he’s just being realistic. We North Americans fail our weight loss diets all the time. Whether it’s Paleo, or low carb, or keto, we stick with it about as long as it takes to start working, then go back to our former habits. We lack gumption. We lack stick-to-it-iveness. And we surely lack aspiration. How on earth could you expect the typical human on this huge continent to reduce their carbon emissions to a European level? And don’t forget, we Canadians get blamed for the oil sands, on top of all our other emissions. It’s not like I’m personally responsible for the supposed engine of my country’s economy. Well am I?

Dr. AC: EGB, you are merely justifying yourself. As usual. I know you sallied forth from your lodgings and procured cheese again today. We’ve disputed this matter scores of times before. You need to get earnest. Plant-based diet. No more flying. A car-free lifestyle. That’s what’s required of every citizen of this planet. Three substantive transformations that can alter the planet’s future prospects. Three imperatives! So stop pottering around. Do you actually BELIEVE in climate change? Really BELIEVE, and not just in some isolated compartment of your brain that you keep walled off six days a week? Really BELIEVE. . . like a religious conversion, a baptism, a rebirth? Because if you did, you’d BEHAVE the way people actually BEHAVE in emergencies. You’d count every gram of CO2 you emit, just like women counted grains of rationed sugar for their tea back during the Great Wars.

Dr. EGB: With all due respect, AC, that war analogy has gotten a bit old of late. You just can’t expect people to get on a war footing and impose serious emissions rations on themselves, when there’s just no sign of a war going on. It’s not like our governments seem very concerned.

Dr. AC: I myself could not have articulated that worthy point more prosaically, though between the two of us, I’m clearly the writer. Our governments do BEHAVE as if The Climate Emergency was about as dire a conundrum as the price of beer. Which is exactly why every citizen with a conscience needs to rise up and CHANGE. Drastically. Now!

EGB, scrutinize these numbers, and tell me if your CONSCIENCE can find any way to justify them.

Dr. EGB: Hey, wait a minute, aren’t you my CONSCIENCE? That’s your job.

Dr. AC: Well, scrutinize them anyway!


Per Capita Emissions 2016:                                                     Change from 2011-2016

Canada:                      18.9 tCO2 per person                                 -2%

USA:                            18.1     “          “                                             -6%

China:                          8.8       “          “                                            +2%

European Union:       7.9       “          “                                             -9%

France:                        6.3       “          “                                            -10%

Mexico:                       6.0       “          “                                            -2%

India:                           1.9!!!   “          “                                              +15%


How can you personally abide with the knowledge that your CO2 emissions are three times those of the average French or Mexican person, and nine times those of the average citizen of Indian?

Dr. EGB: Yeah, I see your point, but I don’t know what to do about it. What could I possibly do that would make any difference?

Dr. AC: Ahhhhh. Expediency triumphs again. But I’ve divulged the key strategies already. Eat a plant based diet. Stop flying all over the place. And get rid of your car. Then persuade everyone you fraternize with (and also those you avoid like the plague) to do the same things. Now! There’s no time left.

Dr. EGB: But my car is electric! And I live in Northern Ontario.

Dr. AC: Do you think that exonerates you? Now listen, here’s a thought . . . you’ve been a pediatrician in excess of thirty years. Perhaps it’s time you metamorphosed into a writer like me. An author, even. Write a book. It might help you get serious. But meanwhile, just stop pleading extenuating circumstances. I tire of your endless mewling.

Reference for data: