The offer was so popular that within a day of going online, the government Web site hosting the global-warming form crashed.
"We started seeing a rise in access yesterday, and it surged this morning," Kenji Someno, head of the environment ministry's Lifestyle Policy Office, says. "We are now trying to restore the system."
Although it is the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, Japan is lagging in its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to six percent below 1990 levels by 2012. To help raise awareness of the need to cut emissions, the Japanese government has enlisted more than 80 companies to offer prizes to citizens who pledge to fight global warming. The Web site crash following the Big Mac offer was the environment ministry's first computer system failure related to a public awareness campaign.
"McDonald's is such a familiar name with people, and they eat there often," Someno says. "The Big Mac discount gives them the strong impression that it's a bargain."
The environment ministry's global warming form includes 39 ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, from shortening shower times to reducing air conditioning use to simply wiping water off the bottom of the kettle before heating it on the stove. Presumably cutting back on meat consumption is not on the list.