Amid a huge debate about global warming and the future of the planet, the year 2018 hit a record: last year we faced the largest greenhouse gas concentration since records began according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. The CO2 level hit more than the acceptable limit of 407,8 particles per million and registered an increasingly higher level than the average level over the last 10 years. Methane gas and nitrous acid, which are 60% and 40% emitted by human activity respectively, also had significant concentration records.
However, this report doesn't consider gas emissions, but the particles that actually remain in the atmosphere. The last time the Earth had this level of CO2 concentration was around 3-5 million years ago, a time when the planet's temperature was 2 to 3°C hotter and the sea level was 10 to 20 meters higher than today.
The situation is so serious that even the goals of the Paris Agreement are not enough to mitigate global warming anymore, especially after the United States abandoned the deal. Now, the UN says that greenhouse gas emissions must decrease by half before 2030, so that the average global temperature may increase by only 1,5°C compared to pre-industrial times. If not, the temperature is likely to increase by 3,2ºC, which seems to be already on track to happen, as 2019 June was the hottest month registered on Earth.
Any time lost after 2020 could make the goal of limiting climate change to 1,5°C unattainable and, in this case, our planet would face a series of natural disasters, such as heatwaves and relentless storms. The escalating climate crisis may compromise human rights, creating a “climate apartheid”, according to a report from the UN human rights expert Philip Alston. These consequences range from the most palpable, beginning from basic rights to water, food and housing, to others that are less obvious, so far, like threats to democracy and to civil and political rights.
But what's really causing all that?
A leaked report from the UN in August 2019 says, among the measures needed to save the world, one thing is a major shift towards vegetarian and vegan diets. This is because livestock represents something between 14.5% and 18% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), beef is accountable for 41% of the emissions of this sector, while milk production represents 20% of the same emissions. Everything counts: from food production from animals, to the digestion process of ruminants and even manure storage and processing.
To give you an idea now, livestock is responsible for emissions of more greenhouse gases than the whole transport of the world combined! It's curious because somehow we immediately think of stopping using fossil fuels when it comes to reducing our footprint, right?
But check this out: in 2016, only three of the biggest meat companies in the world — JBS, Cargill, and Tyson — were accountable for more greenhouse gas emissions than France. The five biggest agricultural companies are responsible for more pollutants than the main oil companies, like Exxon, Shell and BP.
Other environmental impacts
Not to mention other important impacts caused by animal agriculture. For example, did you know that more than 75% of global farmland (an area equivalent to the US, China, the European Union, and Australia combined) are used for meat and dairy production? Many of these areas were originally native forests and ended up deforested because of commercial interests.
It gets even worse when we consider that these products provide just 18% of calories and 37% of the protein we consume. A totally disproportionate use of our resources!
According to the UN, more than 70% of all freshwater efforts worldwide goes towards agriculture. Considering that most grains produced are used to feed animals, it's safe to say that livestock is consuming a significantly huge part of our freshwater reserves.
This is a generalized concern about what will happen with the planet within the next few years. And while it's true that there are many things that must be done on a political and legal level, there are many changes you can make in your daily routine to help the environment. One of the most significant things you can do is to ditch animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs.
If you are already a vegan and want to help save the planet with us, please consider donating here.