The production of meat and dairy products are causing a fortune’s worth of damage due to their effect on global warming. While estimates vary, up to 51% of all greenhouse gases are said to be produced as a result of animal agriculture.
Here’s something to think about. What would happen to the price of meat and dairy products if we included the cost of the damage done by the greenhouse emissions generated from raising meat and dairy? It turns out that the prices would go sky high. It’s estimated that the price of meat would increase by 146% and the price of dairy would rise by 91% if we charged food production companies for their impact on climate change, while the cost of plant-based foods would increase by only 6%. As you can see there’s a big difference.
Earth Day is coming up on April 22 so this is a good time to remind ourselves of how a plant-based diet can help heal the earth, since raising meat is such a big driver of the environmental crisis. The major concerns are as follows:
1. Climate Change
First and foremost, global warming! According to a UN report, raising meat causes more greenhouse emissions than all the cars, trains, trucks, boats and ships in the world put together. Livestock and their byproducts actually account for 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG [green house gas] emissions.” So by reducing demand for animal products, we can do a lot to reduce the rate of global warming. Read more
The latest report has just been released, in what seems like a steady stream of scientific reports saying that cutting out meat is a powerful way to fight global warming.
The report from the Imperial College London says, “In countries with high per-capita meat consumption, like the UK, a shift towards plant-based diets would deliver up to around a 73 percent reduction in diet-related emissions compared to current levels and would require 70-80 percent less farmland.”
The report goes on to say, “Shifting to more sustainable diets, with reduced meat and dairy and more plant-based proteins and foods, offers a huge opportunity for consumers to reduce their personal carbon footprints with no additional cost and would also deliver large health benefits and … cost savings to society.”
The report gives, as an example, that a veggie burger produces only one tenth of the greenhouse gas emissions compared to a beef burger. With so many choices of veggie burgers to choose from these days, from traditional favorites like the Boca Burger or the Gardenburger, to the latest meaty alternatives, such as the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, consumers have fewer and fewer excuses for choosing beef for dinner.
Beans alone can make the big difference in the global warming crisis. Recently, a team of scientists from Oregon State University, Bard College, and Loma Linda University calculated just what would happen if every American made one dietary change: substituting beans for beef. They found that if everyone were willing and able to do that America could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals. Read more
Rising methane levels may be thwarting climate change efforts. A 2017 study attributes about half of the increase to cows and other ruminant livestock which produce methane as they digest food.
These animals host microbes in their stomachs, gut filling hitchhikers that help them break down and absorb the nutrients from tough-to-digest grasses. Those microbes produce methane as their waste, which wafts out of both ends of cows. The manure that cattle and other grazers produce is also a site for microbes to do their business, producing even more methane. Now consider that there are 1.4 billion cattle in the world. You can see why so much of the methane being produced is from livestock.
“Methane emissions are a big deal. About a sixth of the warming that we’ve had since the start of the Industrial Revolution has been caused by methane,” said Stanford University professor Rob Jackson, who chairs the international emission tracking organization known as the Global Carbon Project.
Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a molecule of methane will cause 28-36 times more warming than a molecule of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Recent data shows that methane concentrations in the atmosphere have risen from about 1,775 parts per billion in 2006 to 1,850 parts per billion in 2017.
So, one way to reduce that is to just stop eating beef, right? That’s what researchers near and far believe, including Paul West at the University of Minnesota.
“As an individual, one of the biggest effects that we can have [to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture] is changing what we’re eating to eating a smaller amount of beef,” said West.
Why stop there? we ask. To have the greatest impact, we all need to cut out animal products from our diets as quickly as possible. We can’t afford to only take small steps anymore.
The world needs to go on a greenhouse gas diet! A recent study from researchers at the University of Oxford found that ditching animal products could reduce your carbon footprint by 73 percent.
Get ready for this. The lead scientist of the study says, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”
That’s right! The food you eat is more important than the car you drive, the light bulbs you buy, the insulation in your house and all the other nonfood items you use.
Eating meat is crowding out the planet. In addition to greatly reducing your carbon footprint, researchers found that if everyone went vegan, global farmland use could be reduced by 75 percent. This would be an amount of land comparable to the size of the United States, China, Australia, and the whole Europe combined freed up.
Not only would this result in a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, it would also free up wild land lost to agriculture, one of the primary causes for mass wildlife extinction.
The new study, published in the journal Science, is one of the most comprehensive analyses to date into the detrimental effects farming can have on the environment and included data on nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries. The Oxford report comes on the heels of several other studies showing that raising livestock is a major factor of global warming. Let’s hope people are starting to take notice!
Following a plant-based diet can be the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on earth, a new study suggests. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 73%. Meanwhile, if everyone stopped eating these foods, they found that global farmland use could be reduced by 75%, an area equivalent to the size of the US, China, Australia and Europe combined. Not only would this result in a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, it would also free up wild land lost to agriculture, one of the primary causes of mass wildlife extinction.
According to the authors, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.” They also noted that it has a far bigger impact than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car, which would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The new study, published in the journal Science, is one of the most comprehensive analyses to date into the detrimental effects farming can have on the environment and included data on nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries.
So if you consider yourself an environmentalist, but you still eat animal products, think again! Avoiding the consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.
Snow Road in the Italian Alps – photo by Marco Zorzanello, Time Magazine
It seems like the freezer is broken and now everything is starting to melt! At a time when we would normally expect plenty of snow and ice in northern latitudes, levels this year are at record lows. Global warming is a huge problem and raising meat is one of the biggest reasons why.
It’s worse than we thought. A new study showed that livestock cause the emission of even more methane than previously thought. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Previous estimates of the global livestock industry’s methane production had been underestimating their total output, according to a new study by the Joint Global Change Research Institute. Read more
While world leaders gather in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the next major United Nations Climate Change Summit meeting, the UN World Meteorological Organization has announced global carbon dioxide levels have passed a symbolic threshold. Global average carbon dioxide levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 3 million years.
Unfortunately, the grand strategic narratives around the Morocco conference will barely touch on one crucial aspect – meat and the massive greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing the livestock needed for it. Read more