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Want to Slow Climate Change? Lose the Meat

If all Americans adopted a vegetarian diet, it would be the equivalent of removing 46 million cars from the road

dietary greenhouse gas emissions among meat eaters were between 46 percent and 51 percent higher than fish eaters, 50 percent and 54 percent higher than vegetarians and 99 percent and 102 percent higher than vegans

dietary greenhouse gas emissions among meat eaters were between 46 percent and 51 percent higher than fish eaters, 50 percent and 54 percent higher than vegetarians and 99 percent and 102 percent higher than vegans

Climate change is real.  We are seeing its effects.  Global warming is one aspect of climate change, but the terms are not interchangeable.  The term global warming confuses the issue, as deniers experience more severe winters and are confused. The real issue is climate change. What can you do?

A new study has found that a vegetarian diet or reducing one’s intake of meat “can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation”.  One of the easiest ways you can slow climate change is to lose the meat from your diet.  

The Organic Consumers Association reports on this new study published in Climate Change:

The study examined the diets of 29,589 meat eaters, 15,751 vegetarians, 8,123 pescatarians (vegetarians who eat fish) and 2,041 vegans between the ages of 20 to 79 in the United Kingdom. Participants took a “food-frequency questionnaire” asking how often in the last year they consumed 130 different food items. Researchers were able to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat and warm up the planet, associated with the various foods.

A heavy meat diet, according to the study’s findings, produced nearly double the amount of dietary greenhouse gas emissions per day as a vegetarian diet and about two-and-a-half times more than a vegan diet, which consists of no meat or other animal products.

The United Kingdom-based study found that the typical heavy meat diet – consisting of more than 3.5 ounces of meat per day – generated 15.8 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each day. By comparison, an average pescatarian diet contributed 8.6 pounds of CO2e per day. For vegetarians and vegans, their diets produced 8.4 pounds and 6.4 pounds of CO2e, respectively. 

All told, the study found that dietary greenhouse gas emissions among meat eaters were between 46 percent and 51 percent higher than fish eaters, 50 percent and 54 percent higher than vegetarians and 99 percent and 102 percent higher than vegans.

We cannot underestimate the effects our diet has on climate change.  If you are like me, you consider actions like driving your car as having a great effect and try to reduce emissions by driving less.

I have been a vegetarian for 27 years, and I will lean towards more veganism in light of this study.

Are you willing to change your diet to slow climate change?

We all must make personal sacrifices, and I see this as a small one. It does not mean you will starve. It does not mean you will not eat well. In fact, it means you will be healthier, as a diet consisting of less meat and animal products will help you lose weight and improve the functioning of your body.

What makes consumer meat bad for climate change?

My first assumptions are that raising livestock involves heavy use of natural resources and emits an abundance of methane gas.  Progress Illinois explains:

“Production, transport, storage, cooking and wastage of food are substantial contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” the researchers added. “These GHG emissions include carbon dioxide (from fossil fuels used to power farm machinery and to transport, store and cook foods), methane (from enteric fermentation in ruminant livestock) and nitrous oxide (released from tilled and fertilized soils).”

Globally, food production contributes up to 29 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2012 “Climate Change and Food Systems” report by the agriculture research organization CGIAR. In the United States, 10 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 came from “livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Almost 1/3 of all greenhouse gases affecting climate change comes from food production!

Of course, another way we could improve these statistics, in addition to eating less meat, is to reduce food waste. I know in my own home, that is mostly vegetarian, this is a challenge.

To put the effects of reducing consumption of meat into numbers that are easier to understand, Progress Illinois states:

If all Americans adopted a vegetarian diet, it would be the equivalent of removing 46 million cars from the road, according to estimates from the Environmental Working Group. The organization also found that if an individual eats one less burger a week for one year, it is the same as not driving a car for 320 miles.

46,000,000 cars!  I find that astounding.

We cannot underestimate how little choices, like what we eat for dinner, are globally significant.

Comments

  1. This hot new documentary is making a great case for meat-less environmentalism: http://cowspiracy.com/

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