Changing What’s On Our Plates to Address Climate Change
Practicing sustainable agriculture and changing global diets are critical to meeting our climate change targets. In fact, animal agriculture is a key lever that can make meeting this goal less expensive and more possible. Industrial and animal agriculture have a strong influence on our climate, both because of their high emissions and, importantly, because of their huge land footprint. Without action, our food’s contribution to climate change will continue to increase rapidly with growing population and dietary trends of increasing numbers of people eating more animal-based foods.
The single most effective way to reduce emissions from agriculture is by changing global diets to include more plants and less meat and dairy products.
Did You Know?
The raising and feeding of livestock is the second leading cause of human-made greenhouse gas emissions. At 14.5% of total emissions, animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas than all the fuel burned by all the world’s vehicles.
Animal agriculture is a leading cause of global deforestation. Three-quarters of the deforested land in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest was devoured by animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture is the largest contributor to global water pollution and a major driver of many of the oceans’ 404 dead zones.
One-third of the earth’s land surface is devoted to raising livestock—an area equivalent to the whole of North America and ⅔ of South America combined. Almost two full continents!
One-third of all biodiversity loss has been attributed to livestock production, one of the greatest threats in the current mass extinction rates.
By the Numbers
A recent report from World Research Institute (WRI) puts things in perspective.
If the world’s cattle formed a nation, it would be the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the U.S.
1/4 of the earth’s land mass, excluding Antarctica, is used as pasture.
In 91 percent of the world’s countries and territories, the average person consumes more protein than they need.
Each year, global livestock produces seven to nine times more sewage than humans do, and most of this goes untreated.
17% of all the freshwater in the world used in agriculture is used to grow and feed livestock.
We can make a difference together!
For example, if the entire U.S. population ate only plants for one day, we could avert greenhouse gas emissions equal to burning 67 million gallons of gasoline–enough gasoline to fill over 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools. In one day!
Once people have their basic nutritional needs met, there’s actually a much smaller gap than most people realize between how much protein they need and how much they’re already getting strictly from plant-based sources like beans, grains, soy and vegetables, according to WRI.
We can cut our total carbon “foodprint” in half—yes, that’s right, in half—by eating plant-based.