Considering the recent commentary on global warming and climate change (especially from certain unnamed maniacs), I feel even more passionate about sharing how animal agriculture and the meat industry contributes to global warming. Whether you want to admit it or not – we are in the midst of many ecological disasters all over the globe. The single greatest source of destruction by humans is raising animals for food. It is becoming increasingly clear that those corporations who could make the biggest difference are shirking this responsibility in favour of profits and convenience. Unfortunately, as consumers we do the same, disregarding our environmental impact and favouring personal convenience and cheap goods. Whilst veganmism is certainly centred on eliminating harm to animals, it is also about minimising the environmental impacts of your lifestyle and making considered choices. The planet needs us all to do our bit, every little helps and the small changes add up to make a big difference.
The culprits that usually come to mind are fossil fuels from transport and the energy industry. Oil, natural-gas and coal are all major contributors of greenhouse gases. However, even when combined these emissions and resulting carbon footprint are still lower than that of animal agribusiness. The science and research into the impact of animal agriculture is a growing area, and more and more astonishing facts are making their way into the mainstream media too.
Climate change facts that will blow your mind…
Here are 12 facts that show the link between animal consumption, the meat industry and global warming:
- 1) Animal agriculture produces 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, however more recent research suggests this could be as high as 51%. The combined exhaust from cars, trains, buses, planes etc is only 13%. (source: Worldwatch Institute “Our analysis shows that livestock and their by-products actually account for at least 51% of annual worldwide emissions.”
- 2) Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day. Methane is 25 – 100 times more destructive than CO2, and has a global warming effect 86 times more powerful than CO2.
- 3) Livestock is responsible for 65% of all emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than CO2 (carbon dioxide) which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years. (source – Cowspiracy, read more about this documentary here)
- 4) Even if we halted fossil fuels today, we would exceed the 565 gigatonnes CO2 limit by 2050, all due to animal agriculture. (source: Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work by Richard Oppenlander)
- 5) The UN has published a report concluding that animal agriculture is one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale from local to global. (source & further reading)
- 6) Environmentally damaging emissions from agriculture are projected to increase 80 per cent by 2050. Conversley, adhering to a Vegan diet could cut global food-related emissions by nearly 1/3 by 2050. (source)
- 7) Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is known as “the Earth’s lungs” as it produces 20% of Earths oxygen, so this destruction is a huge issue no matter where in the world you live. (source)
- 8) Increasing appetite for meat and population growth in developing countries mean global meat consumption is on track to increase 75% by 2050, which would make it virtually impossible to keep global warming below the internationally-agreed limit of 2C. (source)
- 9) If the world’s population were to cut to healthy levels of meat consumption – about 70g per day – it would reduce carbon emissions by an amount equivalent to annual output of the US, (the world’s second biggest polluter). Just imagine how much emissions would drop if the world’s population moved to a vegan diet! (source)
- 10) Studies have projected that, at current levels agribusiness emissions will take up the entire world’s carbon budget by 2050. This would mean every other sector, including energy, industry and transport, would have to be zero carbon, a scenario described as “impossible”.
- 11) An Oxford University Study showed that meat-eaters are responsible for two and a half times as many diet related greenhouse-gas emissions per day then vegans.
- 12) Loma Linda University in California found that vegans have the smallest carbon foodprint, with meat-eaters responsible for a carbon footprint 42% higher in greenhouse-gas emissions. (source)
Despite the mass of evidence showing agricultural sector accounts for the majority share of our collective emissions, it’s been ignored at all the major international climate negotiations. This includes the landmark climate change conference that was held in Paris in 2015. For the moment, it looks like it is up to us to champion the change, ramp up the pressure on the agribusiness sector and take responsibility for our consumption.
Key take home?
We can conclude, with certainty, that anyone eating pork, beef etc is consuming up a vastly disproportionate share of the planet’s resources, and that a switch to a vegan diet would dramatically reduce that person’s environmental footprint.
The less meat the world eats, the better it is for our health, the stability of our climate, and the global economy.