Maybe they’re finally seeing the light about the heat caused by raising meat. This year’s annual United Nations Climate Change Conference will reportedly serve “mostly vegan food” following backlash at previous years’ events.
The annual conference sees world leaders come together to discuss how to tackle the climate crisis. In the past, it has sparked major backlash for sidelining – and often completely ignoring – animal agriculture’s impact. This is despite the fact that livestock farming is a major contributor to global warming and ecological destruction.
Brace yourself. The earth’s temperature was off the charts last month. Last month was the planet’s hottest June on record by a huge margin. More recently, the Fourth of July was the hottest day on earth in as many as 125,000 years—breaking a record set the day before.
While natural variations may be able to explain part of it, few climatologist would deny that human activity is the driving force towards global warming. But which human activity is the biggest driver of global warming? The answer may surprise you and even many environmentalists are in denial about it. It’s raising meat.
According to a UN report, raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats and ships in the world put together. A report by scientists at the World Bank and published in Foreign Affairs magazine, stated that raising meat causes more global warming than all other causes put together. Why don’t we know about this? Because major news organizations won’t tell us.
A review of 1,000 articles found that the vast majority – 93 percent – fail to even mention animal agriculture at all. In most articles, the writers downplayed the effectiveness of plant-based diets on tackling the climate crisis, the study found. The mention of dietary changes away from meat and dairy and toward plant-based nutrition was rarely mentioned at all. Of course, there are bright spots. Former Vice President Al Gore faced reality and became a vegan himself.
Since we raise over 60 billion farm animals and catch over 2 trillion fish every year, of course there are going to be consequences. Did we think we could all do that without impacting the environment? Fortunately we are not helpless and we have a choice. Following a plant-based diet is a powerful action each of us can take to fight global warming and sustain the environment. Learn more:
Big meat emits more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than big oil. If the 15 big meat companies were treated as a country, a recent report noted, it would be the 10th-largest greenhouse gas-emitting jurisdiction in the world. Their combined emissions outpace those of oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, researchers found.
The analysis from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Changing Markets Foundation found that emissions by the companies – five meat and 10 dairy corporations – equate to more than 80% of the European Union’s entire methane footprint and account for 11.1% of the world’s livestock-related methane emissions.
Methane, expelled by cows and their manure, is far more potent than carbon dioxide, trapping heat 80 times more effectively and emissions are accelerating rapidly, according to the UN. According to the UN, cutting methane is the “strongest lever” we have to slow global heating. A University of Oxford study published in 2018 found that a 90 percent reduction in beef consumption was needed to avoid climate breakdown. In April 2022, a UN report also stated that the world must eat less meat.
Despite this, many world leaders, along with the general public, have been reluctant to accept that our diets are unsustainable. This year’s annual UN climate conference – COP27 – once again drew controversy for serving beef. The decision was blasted by The Vegan Society, which called it “disappointing.”
The US has resisted regulating farm methane emissions, choosing instead to offer voluntary incentives to farmers and companies for reducing greenhouse gasses. But change is unlikely unless the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to regulate those emissions, said Cathy Day, climate policy coordinator with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The 15 companies studied are based in 10 countries, five of which have increased livestock methane emissions in the past decade, the report said. China’s emissions have increased 17%, far more than other countries.
The effect of animal agriculture goes far beyond methane when it comes to global warming. It’s one of the biggest drivers of deforestation, due to the pressure to clear forests to raise crops for animal feed or provide grazing land. In addition, animal agriculture is one of the biggest users of fossil fuels, used to plant, fertilize and harvest the animal feed, transport the animals to slaughter, to meat processing plants before being send to grocery stores.
The only solution to reducing the greenhouse gases and devastation caused by animal agriculture is for everyone to stop eating animal products.
Earlier this month, Alaska announced that it had canceled the entire snow crab harvest for the year. The sudden shutdown of the snow crab season has left the state shocked.
The population of the species, which lives in the cold waters of the Bering Sea, has fallen below the regulatory threshold for the first time, so they cancelled the harvest in the hope of reviving the species. The crab count was 8 million in 2018 and fell to only 1 million in 2021. The sharp drop is due in part to aggressive commercial fishing, but climate change is a more likely culprit. These creatures thrive in water temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. The worry is that the waters will not be cold enough to sustain these crustaceans.
The food we consume has a massive impact on our planet. According to one analysis, based on UN data, the diet that helps fight global warming the most, by having the least greenhouse emissions, is the vegan diet followed by a vegetarian diet. You can see how the different diets stack up when it comes to global warming in the graph below.
When it comes to global warming we need to move fast if we are to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. A switch to a plant-based diet may be just what we need to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.
Many people advocate buying local as a way to reduce the greenhouse gases causing climate change. Buying from local or regional farmers who grow and raise your food, so that it doesn’t have to be shipped a long distance, saves the CO2 used in transportation, but in fact doing so only saves about 10 percent of the total greenhouse gases that are generated in growing and processing most of the food we eat, according to an expert who has analyzed where most of the climate impact of our food comes from.
It’s the kind of food that ends up on the truck that determines the carbon footprint, explains Sandra Noonan, the Chief Sustainability Officer of Just Salad, a restaurant chain, and it is one more reason to switch to a plant-based diet. Supporting local farmers is always a good idea, but it doesn’t have a huge impact on our carbon footprint, since most of the greenhouse gases generated in producing food happen earlier than the final step of trucking it to your local market or store.
Save our forests! During the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26), 105 countries signed a pledge that aims to end deforestation by the year 2030. Leaders worldwide have banded together behind the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use, which will dedicate billions of dollars to ending deforestation and promoting reforestation efforts. The declaration says, “…to catalyze further progress on eliminating commodity-driven deforestation.”
We know which commodity they should start with, raising meat! For example, in the Amazon rainforest, raising cattle is the prime cause of the burning down the forest with fires so massive the astronauts can see them from outer space. The land is cleared not only for direct use by the cattle but also to grow feed for the cattle. In fact, the UN’s 2019 IPCC report concluded that nearly 80 percent of global deforestation could be directly attributed to agricultural production – significantly tied to the production of animal feed for livestock.
As climate change activists narrow in on the animal agricultural industry, governments worldwide are initiating programs to cut down emissions across the entire market. Recently, eight countries announced pledges to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent over the next ten years. The United States and European Union just announced the Global Methane Pledge to reduce worldwide methane emissions ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year. The European Commission has declared that reducing methane emissions, across every industry, is the “single most effective strategy in reducing global warming.”
Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide and is largely driven by raising meat. Cows, in particular, are potent methane producers. Cows produce between 250 and 500 liters of methane every day. That’s a lot of gas! The number of livestock in the world keeps rising and livestock is grown to a larger size than before, all to meet the growing worldwide demand for meat and dairy products.
We can all do our part in reducing methane emissions by simply not eating meat. We’ll also be helping to save the forests and other environmental problems such as water pollution. Going veg is a powerful move to help make a sustainable environment for the planet we all live on.
There’s no fixing a climate change catastrophe without slashing the number of animals raised for food. A new Meat Atlas 2021 report revealed that globally, the world’s five largest meat and dairy companies together account for more emissions than oil giants such as BP or Exxon. Many people now recognize this fact, but governments appear loath to acknowledge it publicly in their policies due to pressure from large animal agriculture producers and meat-eaters. However, one country has taken the first step in this process, and are considering cutting the number of livestock by nearly a third.
It’s time for a plant-based treaty. What is a plant-based treaty? It’s a new idea that gets to the root of a prime driver of global warming, animal agriculture! We’re not kidding. A UN report said that raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, plains, trains, trucks, ships and planes in the world all put together. A report by two environmentalists at the World Bank says that animal agriculture accounts for 51% of global warming. Even former vice president, and now a leader of the movement to combat global warming, Al Gore, has become a vegan in recognition of the harm that raising meat causes to the environment.
A new grassroots campaign has launched the Plant-Based Treaty. It encourages world leaders to look at a different but more sustainable solution, rather than focusing on carbon emissions alone. It demands that governments of every country around the globe cease animal agriculture to cut down on emissions. A complete transformation of our broken food system is essential, as practices like unsustainable animal agriculture need to end if there is to be any hope of achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.
Supporters of this treaty are campaigning in places such as Amsterdam, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Seoul, England and Mumbai to encourage world leaders to sign the Treaty. The key points of this treaty are:
Relinquish – No land-use, ecosystem degradation, or deforestation for the purposes of animal agriculture.
Redirect – An active transition away from animal-based agriculture systems to plant-based food systems.
Restore – Restore key ecosystems and reforest the Earth.
According to Anita Krajnc, Global Campaign Coordinator for the Plant-Based Treaty, “We hope that national governments see the support behind the values and principles of the Plant Based Treaty campaign and use it as inspiration to start to negotiate vital changes in our food system.”
With increasing pressure and clear evidence that the climate crisis is real, it is easy to feel hopeless. But you don’t have to wait for a treaty. Just switching to or maintaining a plant-based diet is something each of us can do on our own.
We knew it was coming. It had to happen. On May 4, the hotter Earth will officially become the new normal. That’s when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) releases its once-a-decade update to “climate normals.”
“It was a very substantial upward trend in temperature, especially along the West Coast, in the South and along the East Coast,” says Mike Palecki, with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Globally, the decade ending in 2020 was the hottest decade recorded since 1880. “We’re not aware of how much warming is happening on a regular basis,” says Bernadette Woods Placky, chief meteorologist with the nonprofit Climate Central. “It’s that slow grind that’s eating away at the changing normal that doesn’t give you the opportunity sometimes to sit back and look at what it used to be.”
That raising meat was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, culprit should come as no surprise. According to a UN study, raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, trucks, trains, boats and planes in the world all put together. A study conducted by the World Bank went further, stating that raising meat causes more global warming than all other causes put together. Even former vice president Al Gore has gone vegan, and says he’ll do it for the rest of his life.
We raise staggering 60 billion farm animals every year for meat. That’s an awful lot of animals, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it has a big effect on the environment. Learn more about how raising meat causes so much global warming.