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!
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.
Recently, some people have been touting grass-fed beef as eliminating all the problems associated with meat, or as an equivalent alternative to going vegetarian. Don’t fall for it. Grass-fed beef is still bad for us, the environment and, of course, the cows.
Let’s take a look and see what some leading veg-authors have to say on the subject and then make a few observations of our own. Read more
When it comes to pork, there’s a high price to be paid by the workers, by the environment, and perhaps worst of all, by the pigs themselves. The scale of the problem is enormous. We raise 120 million pigs each year in the US, and many millions more are raised around the world.
The environment pays a high price for concentrated factory-style pig farming. Factory pig farms produce huge amounts of manure – much more than can be used as fertilizer. This manure is stored in lagoons that can leak or break open after a good rain, and cause massive amounts of water pollution as the runoff enters the lakes and streams. This results in massive fish kills and food chain disruption. Methane, a greenhouse gas much more damaging than carbon dioxide, is given off from these lagoons, contributing to global warming, and the intense smell reduces the air quality in the surrounding neighborhood to an often unbearable degree. Read more
The grand strategic narratives around the COP21 conference in Paris will barely touch on one crucial aspect – meat and the massive greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing the livestock needed for it.
The Paris talks are of vital importance, not just for climate change itself but for framing what kind of food policy follows. Why does food matter for climate change? Well, it’s a major driving factor. The UN’s own Special Rapporteur, Olivier de Schutter says it well, “There is no doubt in the scientific community that the impacts of livestock production [on climate change] are massive.” In fact, a study written by two senior economists at the World Bank showed that the livestock-meat sector of the economy is responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. But for some reason it barely gets a mention in Paris. It seems that in at least this one respect, the conference is in denial.
Don’t hold your breath for the conference to recognize this, much less use the feared “V word”. While sobering evidence like this has mounted for years, climate change policy makers have focused their attention on energy rather than food. This policy blind spot is because tackling the emissions from producing food means tackling consumers’ food choices, and they’re simply afraid.
The livestock sector’s impact on climate change has been persistently neglected – in both policy and practice – for a long time. Unlike other sectors such as waste, transport and energy, in which greenhouse gas emissions reductions have been attempted through varying means such as taxes, incentives or subsidies, the livestock sector has enjoyed an unprecedented freedom to carry on with “business as usual.”
But the environment simply can’t stand business as usual and demands courage from us all. Without tackling the problem of animal agriculture, we will not be able to solve the climate change problem.
To learn more about the meat connection to global warming, see our Global Warming Flyer.
Vegetarians may be cooler than ever, in light of another record-breaking year for global warming. With 2014 now on the books, it’s officially taken the title of hottest year on record. That ranking comes courtesy of data released Monday by the Japan Meteorological Agency, the first of four major global temperature record-keepers to release their data for last year.
The world is heating up, and meat is a prime driver, and maybe even the largest driver, behind the crisis. We have written in the past of the connection between livestock agriculture and global warming, and we have been encouraged by Vice President Al Gore becoming a vegan in recognition of that connection.
Closer to home, greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state dropped by about 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, led by reductions in emissions from the electricity sector, a new state report shows. However, as good as this is, it’s clear that this is still only nibbling around the edges of the problem, when we stop to consider that the World Watch Institute has determined that livestock agriculture causes 51% of greenhouse gas emissions.
A state law requires Washington to reduce overall emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, make a 25 percent cut in 1990 levels by 2035, and make even greater reductions by 2050. According to Hedia Adelsman, special assistant to the state Ecology Director, “We still need to take action. We are making a lot of progress but there’s still work to do. We need comprehensive policies to make sure we not only get to 2020 but 2035.” We agree. Comprehensive policies are needed. But that means, now more than ever, we can’t “forget about food” when it comes to global warming and other environmental problems. Offering and promoting vegetarian options in the state cafeterias, and in state-run and supported institutions, would be a great way to start.
The message is clear, the best way to keep cool in the long run is to eat and drink cool vegetarian food, for both you and the world we live in.