Planet Earth will likely pass a key terrifying climate change threshold target of the world temperature rise in approximately a single decade, which will prompt the accelerated loss of glaciers, steepen the decline in water availability, worsen land conflicts, and deepen poverty, scientists said this week.
The ‘experts’ gathered in Paris last December for the annual UN Climate Change Conference to discuss how to cut carbon emissions and halt temperature rises. But the principal contributor was left off the climate change agenda—animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, fresh water depletion, species extinction, habitat loss, ocean dead zones, pollution, and is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transport in the world combined.
Still, 195 nations agreed to try to hold world temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with an aim of 1.5 degrees Celsius, while ignoring a prime culprit.
Climate Change Threshold Breach Solutions
Scientists at a University of Oxford conference on how to achieve the 1.5 degree goal stated that with world emissions unlikely to slow quickly enough to hit that target, it will probably be necessary to remove some carbon pollution from the atmosphere to stabilise the planet. Seemingly, an obvious statement to make. They further mentioned that could happen by planting forests or by capturing and then pumping underground emissions from power plants.
Planting forests becomes redundant when animal agriculture, one of the largest global expanding systems to account for a growing human population, is the leading cause of deforestation. And do we really want to push more pollution into the ground of our already suffering planet as some haphazard bandaid endeavour to reduce a global disaster?
Pete Smith, a plant and soil scientist at the University of Aberdeen, has said that other changes—such as reducing food waste and creating more sustainable diets, with less beef and fewer imported greenhouse vegetables—could also play a big role in meeting the goal, without so many risks to the climate change threshold being breached.
There are lots of behavioural changes required, not just by the government .. but by us.
Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen
Now we’re talking effectively. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year (approximately 1.3 billion tons) gets lost or wasted. But it’s not just the amount of food wasted that’s a problem—the type of food wasted is actually more important than the quantity in terms of the impact on the environment. Significantly more energy is used in the production of meat compared to other foods so it has a greater environmental impact and ultimately, contributes to the climate change threshold being breached.
Sustainable diets is a top topic and rightfully so. A new study, published in Nature Climate Change, suggests that if the current trends continue food production alone will reach, if not exceed, the global targets for total greenhouse gas emissions in 2050. Another study by the University of Oxford declared that by consuming plant-based foods, instead of animal-based food products, the world could prevent 8.1 million deaths per year and substantially mitigate the expected food-related greenhouse gas emissions growth by 2050. It would also save between $708–1,426 billion USD in diet related “cost-of-illness” health burdens.
Food production is a main driver of biodiversity loss and a large contributor to climate change and pollution, so our food choices matter.
While the focus on a global shift away from fossil fuels to green energy is critically important, it remains a fruitless undertaking when those in charge of policy and industries, and those making individual meal choices every single day, ignore the elephant in the room. Breaching the climate change threshold is not something to be shrugged off or ignored. It will affect every single one of us in the near future.
Animal agriculture is an inefficient, failing food system that is harshly damaging the entire planet risking all of our lives. The average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat is less than 3%. As more meat is consumed, more arable cultivation of land is turned over to producing feedstock for those animals. The losses at each stage are large, and as humans globally eat more and more animal-based food products, the conversion from plants to food becomes less and less efficient. This drives agricultural expansion and land cover conversion, and releases more greenhouse gases.
All Food Choices Matter
Countless articles discuss how it is imperative to find ways to achieve global food security without expanding crop or pastureland, but we already have the solution in front of us. Our food choices do matter and by consuming a plant-based diet, you reduce your impact on the planet dramatically.
Don’t believe the hyped up, poorly reported “journalism” that states vegetarian diets are bad for the environment—it just isn’t true. Omnivores have more than twice the carbon footprint than that of vegans due to the sheer amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of animal-based foods. Humans who eat meat and dairy are the single largest threat to the world’s plant and animal life biodiversity. They are the reason the Amazon rainforest has degraded to such a point due to cattle ranching where it can no longer regulate its own internal systems.
The next decade is our chance as individuals to drive actual change. What side of history will you be on?
Sources: Reuters, The Guardian (1) (2), University of Cambridge