How Animal Agriculture contributes to Global Warming
The tragic consequences of global warming are already apparent - from melting ice caps to extreme weather conditions, leading to the death of people, animals and plants. The spread of disease, the mass extinction of species and the inundation of coastal states are predicted.
What to do? Thus far, most attention has been paid to the imperative of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by reducing the burning of fossil fuels. One of the ways this can be accomplished is through the reduction of animal agriculture and the increase of plant agriculture. It takes less arable land and energy inputs to feed a vegan than to feed a non-vegan because food energy (as calories), such as grain, eaten directly by a person is more efficient than cycling that energy through an animal by feeding grain to a "food" animal .
Thus, even though both animal and plant agriculture depend on fossil fuel inputs, less is needed for plant agriculture.
According to a study done by researchers Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin at the U. of Chicago and published in the April, 2006 issue of the journal Earth Interactions, the average American diet requires the production per year of an extra 1 and 1/2 tons of CO2 equivalent, in the form of actual CO2 as well as methane and other greenhouse gasses compared to a vegan diet.
Methane is a greenhouse gas which hasn't received the attention of CO2. In the film featuring Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, one is led to the website www.climatecrisis.org. Among the suggestions made there (under "Action you Can Take at Home") is the following:
"Eat less meat. METHANE IS THE SECOND MOST SIGNIFICANT GREENHOUSE GAS and cows are one of the greatest methane emitters. Their grassy diet and multiple stomachs cause them to produce methane, which they exhale with every breath." (emphasis added)
This concept is developed in a report available at http://www.earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm by Noam Mohr, "A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetime." Herein is a brief summary.
Mohr explains that he is using the term "vegetarianism" in its strict sense of eliminating from one's diet all animal flesh plus dairy and eggs, that is, "veganism", so I will use the term "veganism" in my summary
Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history. By focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see TODAY (and for the next 50 years or so). As a result, they are neglecting what might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes: advocating a vegan diet.
Neglecting such a strategy would be a serious mistake. Data published by Dr. James Hansen and others show that CO2 emissions are not the main cause of observed atmospheric warming today. Though this may sound like the work of global warming skeptics, it isn't: Hansen is Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies who has been called "a grandfather of the global warming theory." He is a longtime supporter of action against global warming, cited by Al Gore and often quoted by environmental organizations, who has argued against skeptics for subverting the scientific process. His results are generally accepted by global warming experts, including bigwigs like Dr. James McCarthy, co-chair of the International Panel on Climate Change's Working Group II.
At the same time that we are working now to reduce CO2 emissions, we must work to curb other greenhouse gases. By far the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gas is methane, and the number one source of methane worldwide is animal agriculture.
Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen by about 31% since pre-industrial times, methane concentrations have more than doubled. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3% of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as all natural sources.
Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. And this source is on the rise: global meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, and shows little sign of abating. About 85% of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of "livestock," and while a single cow releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the hundreds of millions of "livestock" animals worldwide is enormous. An additional 15% of animal agricultural methane emissions are released from the massive "lagoons" used to store untreated farm animal waste, and already a target of environmentalists for their role as the number one source of water pollution in the U.S.
1. Along with other lifestyle choices which reduce global warming (such as driving less, buying energy-efficient vehicles, etc.), you can choose to reduce or eliminate animal flesh and animal products from your diet. REQUEST THE FREE VEGETARIAN STARTER KIT from Physicians Committee forResponsible Medicine, (202)686-2210 x306 or email@example.com or download frompcrm.org Also available in Spanish as Guia de Iniciacion una Dieta Vegetariana.
2. Organizations should consider making advocating veganism a major part of their global warming campaigns. At a minimum, environmental advocates should mention veganism in any information about actions individuals can take to address global warming.
3. Government policy should encourage vegan diets. Possible mechanisms include an environmental tax on meat, dairy and eggs similar to one already recommended on gasoline, a shift in farm subsidies to encourage plant agriculture over animal agriculture, or an increased emphasis on vegan foods in government-run programs like the school lunch program or food stamps.
THIS ARTICLE IS AVAILABLE IN SPANISH HERE
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