It's getting harder to differentiate real news from satire these days, but headlines Australia is bidding for the honour of hosting the United Nations climate change conference COP31 take the cake.
Surely, a nation that constantly favours profit over the planet is joking when it puts its hand up as a champion of action on the climate catastrophe - not only because of our infatuation with fossil fuels but also because of our obscene obsession with farming animals for their flesh.
The UN, which has branded meat consumption the "world's most urgent problem", says animal agriculture is responsible for up to 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions - by some estimates, more than all forms of transportation combined. So why isn't it front and centre of climate gatherings, and why does Australia, which consumes 89.6kg of meat per capita each year, assume our heat-and-three-veg nation is perfectly placed to lead the climate change conversation?
Every stage of the production of animal-derived foods affects the planet, from the Earth-warming methane generated in ruminant animals' digestive tracts to slaughterhouses' run-off going into the Great Barrier Reef, all the petrol consumed by slaughter trucks and live-export ships, and the power needed to freeze dead bodies so they don't rot before they reach your plate.
Reigning in the devastation we're already seeing from the climate catastrophe requires a multi-pronged approach. Yes, we need to stop mining and fracking, but we also need to look at our perversely archaic food system that imprisons thinking, feeling individuals on highly pollutant factory farms or on swathes of razed native land.
The good news is we don't have to wait for our government to do the right thing or for other world leaders to come here and postulate about the future of the planet while it burns. We can each do our only home a huge favour right now and go green with every meal, simply by choosing delicious, widely available plant-based foods.
After all, as absurd as it is for Australia (which is responsible for 1.2 per cent of global emissions) to host a summit on saving the planet, you've got to admit it's equally farcical for each of us to wring our hands over, say, the east coast's almost year-long flood disaster, and still sit down to three meaty meals a day. Knowledge is power, and knowing the production of a vegan burger requires some 87 per cent less water and 96 per cent less land, while contributing around 89 per cent lower greenhouse gas emissions than a beef burger does, should make it easy for each of us to buy better for dinner tonight - and the planet tomorrow.
Of course, addressing the cow in the room when it comes to the state of the environment isn't intended to let other destructive industries, like coal, off the hook. It is a huge problem that Australia is one of the world's largest fossil fuel exporters, and we should strive to become "a net-zero economy". But playing host to world leaders who fly in on private jets for a 10-day feast on flesh isn't going to get us any closer to that lofty and urgent goal.
Nor should we revere the COP summits held to date as the pinnacle of eco-perfection. After all, despite hosting for the first time a pavilion dedicated to addressing food system reform, COP27, currently being held in Egypt, outrageously put beef, chicken, fish and dairy on the menu - instead of the agenda where they belong.
In reality, if leaders were serious about the issues we face, COP summits would be held over Zoom and each participant would have a vegan meal kit delivered. Maybe we shouldn't hold our breath for quite that level of leadership over virtue signalling, but it's safe to say until we commit to making the transition to clean energy and an animal-free farming system, Australia's bid to host the climate summit in 2026 is merely a 'cop'-out.
- Emily Rice is the senior communications adviser to PETA Australia.