For me, the experience of not consuming meat for more than 40 years and dairy for the past 8 years, combined with fact based nutrition research, has led me to conclude that Whole Food Plant Based nutrition is the healthiest path to optimal health and wellbeing. However, personal health is not the main reason why so many people are becoming vegetarians (no meat) or vegans (no meat or dairy). Instead, it´s mainly a response to animal exploitation and cruelty as well as the devastating effects that climate change is having on our planet. For them, not consuming animal products, in any form, is the best way to reverse climate change.
The main objective of this two part series on Climate Change is to inform and explain how what we eat effects the Global Environment.
What are The Consequences of Climate Change?
According to the Third and Fourth National Climate Assessment Reports (NASA):
“Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.”
And The Future…
“Climate Change will continue through this century and beyond and the way things are going some of the long-term effects of global climate change we can expect are as follows:
• Temperatures will continue to rise
• Frost Free Season and Growing Season will lengthen
• More droughts and Heat Waves
• Hurricanes will become stronger and more intense
• Sea level will Rise 1 – 4 feet by 2100
• Arctic to become ice free by mid-century
Each of the past three decades has been warmer than any preceding decade since weather records began in 1850. Today, the world’s leading climate scientists believe that human activities are almost certainly the main cause of the warming observed since the middle of the 20th century.
An increase of 2°C (3.6° F) compared to the temperature in pre-industrial times is seen by scientists as the threshold beyond which there is a much higher risk that dangerous and possibly catastrophic changes in the global environment will occur. For this reason, in 2016 the international community of 200 countries came together in Paris and came up with the Paris Agreement which has, as it´s main goal, the need to keep global warming below 2°C. In order to do this, there is a need to reduce gas emissions.”
How does that work?
Some gases in the Earth’s atmosphere act a bit like the glass in a greenhouse, trapping the sun’s heat and stopping it from going back into space and although many of these gases occur naturally, human activity is increasing the concentrations of some of them in the atmosphere, in particular:
• carbon dioxide (CO2)
• nitrous oxide
According to the Paris Agreement these are the main Causes of the Rising of Gas Emissions:
• Burning of fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas which produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
• Cutting down rainforests (deforestation). Trees help to regulate the climate by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. So when they are cut down, that beneficial effect is lost and the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect.
• Increasing livestock farming. Cows and sheep produce large amounts of methane when they digest their food and release gas.
According to the Agreement, the burning of fossil fuels is by far the main culprit while the effects of methane gas is not considered that important. As a result, the responsibility of stopping and/or reversing the tendency towards global warming lies mainly in the hands of large industries, especially transportation, which depends on the burning of fossil fuels.
The question is…is Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere the main cause of Global Warming?
It is, according to António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general. He told global leaders during a speech this month (September) at the U.N. headquarters in New York that the world has less than two years to avoid “runaway climate change.”
“The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands,” Guterres said. “We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels.”
What about Methane and other Gases from Livestock?
According to a report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow –Environmental Issues and Options”, released in November of 2006 from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization,
“Livestock emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to every one of the most serious environmental problems. The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a higher share than transport. (Note: The release of this report was not covered by any of the major news outlets, only a few mentions are found on the Internet).
So, which is it?
The dilemma we´re in is that, if the problem is CO2, then the responsibility of turning Climate Change around lies mainly in the hands of industry. If the main problem is Methane and other gases…and the solution is actually connected to livestock…to a much greater extent the responsibility and the power of effecting change lies in the hands of each one of us.
In Part 2: The Solution is on Our Plate…I will explain how our choices can make a difference and how we, as citizens of Planet Earth, have the power to reverse Climate Change.