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Droughts, floods, ocean acidification, rising seas, loss of species etcetera; we are hearing about the severe effects of global warming on a daily basis. What we are not hearing as much about is what we can do about it. There are solutions which don't require risky geo-engineering. Our lives are going to change. Our food, travel and our homes are in for a major energy transition. The faster this is done the less damage is done to our planet and the more chance we have of moving our species forward on a livable planet.
The title comes from Prof. Tim Burton of the University of Leeds commenting on a new study which builds upon the many studies released in the past few years showing that the most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint to help in mitigating the worst effects of climate change is to eliminate/reduce our consumption of meat. Yes, giving up meat especially beef is even more effective than giving up your car.
Prof Tim Benton, at the University of Leeds, said the new work is based on national US data, rather than farm-level studies, and provides a useful overview. “It captures the big picture,” he said, adding that livestock is the key to the sustainability of global agriculture.
“The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat,” Benton said. “Another recent study implies the single biggest intervention to free up calories that could be used to feed people would be not to use grains for beef production in the US.”
The heavy impact on the environment of meat production was known but the research shows a new scale and scope of damage, particularly for beef. The popular red meat requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions. When compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases.
Prof. Gidon Eshel, at Bard College in New York state one of the authors of the new study said this: “The big story is just how dramatically impactful beef is compared to all the others,” . [..] “I would strongly hope that governments stay out of people’s diet, but at the same time there are many government policies that favor of the current diet in which animals feature too prominently. Remove the artificial support given to the livestock industry and rising prices will do the rest. In that way you are having less government intervention in people’s diet and not more.”
UN scientists have come to their own conclusion that global consumption of meat and dairy must be reduced by half in order to safely feed and shelter our planets species in the future.
Transitioning our transportation and home energy use can take time, money and some waiting for infrastructure to catch up to our needs. But transitioning our diet is the most immediate, economical and easiest solution available. The benefits are immense including better health.