In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a study showing that the animal agriculture industry is one of the chief contributors to climate change, contributing 18% of emissions, surpassing all transport industries combined (cars, trains, ships and planes).
A later study from the Worldwatch Institute, citing vastly underestimated livestock figures and effects in the FAO paper, found that animal agriculture was ultimately responsible for 51% of climate change.
“If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.”
While the exact numbers are subject to debate, what remains clear is that our daily food choices have a huge impact on our planet.
And that is reason for hope.
If the animal agriculture industry were a pipeline, we’d be rallying to stop it and being arrested by the thousands.
But without signing a single petition, attending a meeting, joining a demonstration, calling your representative, convincing a corporation to change its habits, or going to jail, you can start to have an impact at your next meal by choosing plant-based options.
That is incredibly empowering.
Take a look at these other studies compiled by Katherine Cantrell of the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition:
A 2014 analysis by the University of Cambridge found that “the agriculture-related emissions in our business-as-usual scenario alone almost reach the full 2C target emissions allowance for 2050,” and the only scenario that would reduce emissions in 2050 compared to 2009 levels was the low-meat “healthy diet” scenario. Furthermore, “Almost all of these large GHG emission savings (5.6 out of ∼6 GtCO2e yr−1 ) are associated with livestock reductions.”
Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future summarized five studies which all demonstrated that the most dramatic declines in greenhouse gases are made possible through reduction in meat consumption.
Chalmers University in Sweden concludes that, “Large reductions, by 50% or more, in ruminant meat consumption are, most likely, unavoidable if the EU targets are to be met” because “technological options alone are very unlikely to be sufficient.”
A meta-analysis of 120 studies found that if Americans transitioned to a plant-based diet it could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 79%, as well as avoiding 460,861 premature deaths, and saving $289 billion in health care and climate change mitigation costs.
A team of researchers from four universities found that by simply replacing beef with beans, the United States could immediately “achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the U.S. In turn, this shift would free up 42% of U.S. cropland.”
The Global Calculator from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change allows people to see these stunning results for themselves. Selecting the Chatham House “high meat” and “low meat” categories displays the dramatic disparity in the degree of warming achieved with maximal or minimal changes to diet, while holding other abatement strategies steady.
On top of that, there are studies showing that animal agriculture, and Tyson in particular, is responsible for a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico; 128 slaughterhouses are responsible for most Amazon deforestation; and meat consumption is driving the extinction of plant and animal species.
How to Take Action
Who knew that we already wield one of the most powerful levers in the fight against climate change, and that it’s shaped like a fork?
The new book by Paul Hawken, Drawdown, lists the switch to a plant-rich diet as the #4 best solution to climate change. This is also the only top solution under our direct control.
For more information on trying more plant-based foods or on how to make the switch, check out ChooseVeg for recipes and health tips. There is also an online 22 day vegan challenge with friendly folks who can guide you through this delicious new world.
For your smartphone there is a handy app that will tell you if products are 100% plant-based and vegan.
Here in Tacoma, there are two entirely plant-based restaurants to enjoy that will please your taste buds while saving the climate:
Quickie Too: 1324 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Viva: N. 26th & Proctor St.
In addition to that, there are plant-based options at places such as:
Gateway to India
Top of Tacoma Bar and Café
Ice Cream Social
Marlene’s Market & Deli
You can explore Happy Cow for more options in Tacoma and around the world.
We Can Make A Difference
We know that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity and life on earth as we know it. How can we not use every non-violent tool at our disposal to stop it?
350 Tacoma promotes the enjoyment of local, organic, plant-based foods for a better tomorrow.
Forks over Knives
Vegan Starter Kit