Rajendra Pachuari, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggested Monday that a decrease in individual meat consumption could provide the most immediate and feasible strategy for reducing the effects of global warming. In fact, only 13 percent of global greenhouse emissions come from transportation (planes, trains and automobiles), while a whopping 18 percent of the emissions come from the planet’s livestock industry.
As the author of the piece points out, a single-minded strategy aimed at eliminating global climate problems is foolish, and the reduction of meat consumption must necessarily be accompanied by additional forms of eco-friendly activity.
Need another reason to feel guilty about feeding your children that Happy Meal—aside from the fat, the calories and that voice in your head asking why you can’t be bothered to actually cook a well-balanced meal now and then? Rajendra Pachauri would like to offer you one. The head of the U.N.‘s Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Pachauri on Monday urged people around the world to cut back on meat in order to combat climate change. “Give up meat for one day [per week] at least initially, and decrease it from there,” Pachauri told Britain’s Observer newspaper. “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity.” So, that addiction to pork and beef isn’t just clogging your arteries; it’s flame-broiling the earth, too.
By the numbers, Pachauri is absolutely right. In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions—by comparison, all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. Much of livestock’s contribution to global warming come from deforestation, as the growing demand for meat results in trees being cut down to make space for pasture or farmland to grow animal feed. Livestock takes up a lot of space—nearly one-third of the earth’s entire landmass. In Latin America, the FAO estimates that some 70% of former forest cover has been converted for grazing. Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they’re alive—and when they’re burned or cut down, the greenhouse gas is released back into the atmosphere.
Factory farms are notoriously bad global environmental citizens, from the destruction of ecosystems to create large-scale animal housing to the increase in methane that comes from the tons of animal waste each farm produces.