Scientific findings that supports a plant based diet as an immediate solution to address climate change
UN Urges Vegan Diet
A global diet free of meat and dairy is necessary for the world to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, according to a new report from the UN. The report, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Production and Consumption: Priority Products and Materials from the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP), found that consuming a diet of meat and dairy is as bad for the planet as global fossil fuel consumption because both increase in direct proportion to the economic growth.
“Agriculture and food consumption are identified as one of the most important drivers of environmental pressures, especially habitat change, climate change, water use and toxic emissions,” explains the report. “As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets heavy in meat and dairy products are unsustainable.”
Agriculture, in particular meat and dairy products, account for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions according to the report. A vegan diet has the least impact on the planet.
Full Report: [UNEP]
“Livestock and Climate Change”
Recent analysis by Goodland and Anhang co-authors of“Livestock and Climate Change” in the latest issue of World Watch magazine found that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions!
The main sources of GHGs from animal agriculture are:
- Deforestation of the rainforests to grow feed for livestock.
- Methane from manure waste. – Methane is 72 times more potent as a global warming gas than CO2
- Refrigeration and transport of meat around the world.
- Raising, processing and slaughtering of the animal.
Meat production also uses a massive amount of water and other resources which would be better used to feed the world’s hungry and provide water to those in need.
Based on their research, Goodland and Anhang conclude that replacing livestock products with soy-based and other alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. They say “This approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions and their atmospheric concentrations-and thus on the rate the climate is warming-than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.”
Full Report: [WorldWatch Institute]
Adapting agriculture to mitigate climate change
The practice developing sustainable agriculture would make both adaptation and mitigation of climate change efficient, a point confirmed by a 2009 Dutch study which found that a global shift to an organic vegan diet would save world governments 80% of climate mitigation costs by 2050, or a savings of US$32 trillion.
Full Report: [IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]
Cutting Back on Meat-Eating & Livestock Products Should Be Environmental Priority
The positive effect of vegan diets on the environment is pretty well documented at this point, but here’s another new study detailing the high environmental costs of meat: It concludes that because of increases in population and per capita consumption we will have to cut back on meat between 19-42% by 2050 just to keep environmental damage at current levels.
Reuters quotes the report authors, from Dalhousie University, as saying that “reining in growth in this sector should be prioritized.”
Furthermore, there’s “a profound disconnect between the anticipated scale of potential environmental impacts associated with projected livestock production levels and even the most optimistic mitigation strategies.”
Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the report Forecasting potential global environmental costs of livestock production 2000-2050 notes, “by 2050, the livestock sector alone may either occupy the majority of, or significantly overshoot, recently published estimates of humanity’s “safe operating space”" when it comes to climate change, reactive nitrogen mobilization, and appropriation of plant biomass.
In really simple terms: More meat means more greenhouse gas emissions, more nitrogen runoff and pollution, and more land needed for grazing or to grow food for animals which humans will eat.