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California’s Climate Change Plan Is Good, But Going Vegetarian is Better

California’s Climate Change Plan Is Good, But Going Vegetarian is Better

You may have heard that California has adopted a precedent-setting plan to cut gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Under the new regulations, Californians may see more fuel-efficient cars, better public transportation, and utility rebates to make homes energy-efficient. While this is certainly welcome news, there is something simple that everyone can do to help curb climate change: Go vegetarian. Or at least eat much less meat.

Back in September, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, implored people to have at least one meat-free day a week to help halt global warming. Soon after, Tara Garnett, of the UK-based Food Climate Research Network, suggested that people be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one liter of milk per week.

There is overwhelming evidence that meat production causes global warming. Here’s some more food for thought:

• A 2006 United Nations report revealed that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes in the world combined. The livestock sector is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.

• When researchers at the University of Chicago compared the amount of fossil fuel needed to cultivate and process various foods, including running machinery, providing food for animals, and irrigating crops, they found that the typical U.S. meat-eater generates nearly 1.5 tons more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan does. By comparison, if you traded a gas-guzzling vehicle for a state-of the-art hybrid, the CO2 savings would only be slightly more than 1 ton.

• On its Web site, Environmental Defense estimates, “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains … the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. … If every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads. Having one meat-free day per week would be the same as taking 8 million cars off American roads.” Imagine what a difference you could make if you never ate meat.

• From the The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook:77 Essential Skills To Stop Climate Change, the official companion volume to the worldwide Live Earth concerts—states that refusing meat is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

If we all adopt greener eating habits, we’ll have a greener planet. If you haven’t yet gone vegetarian, maybe now is the time? For starters, try eating veggie burgers instead of hamburgers and beans instead of beef.

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Photo by Jody Boyman

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15 comments

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3:35PM PST on Dec 15, 2012

Thank you for article and interesting comments too.

3:34PM PST on Dec 15, 2012

Thank you for article and interesting comments too.

9:09AM PST on Dec 22, 2008

http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/environment.html

is where I copied the previous two posts from.

9:05AM PST on Dec 22, 2008

Land degradation: Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder.

Biodiversity: Indeed, the livestock sector may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity, since it is the major driver of deforestation, as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas and facilitation of invasions by alien species.

Note: The term “livestock” refers to all farmed animals, including pigs, birds raised for meat, egg-laying hens, and dairy cows.

9:05AM PST on Dec 22, 2008

Climate change: With rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting icecaps and glaciers, shifting ocean currents and weather patterns, climate change is the most serious challenge facing the human race. The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.

Livestock are also responsible for almost two-thirds (64 percent) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.

Water: The livestock sector is a key player in increasing water use, accounting for over 8 percent of global human water use, mostly for the irrigation of feedcrops. It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures.

Manure runoff from a Maryland dairy farm (click image for larger view; courtesy of USDA).

7:31PM PST on Dec 21, 2008

It's not surprising at all that meat eaters would just go vegetarian all of a sudden, to help the environment or not. I am vegetarian for health, environmental and animal rights reasons, but naturally everyone makes the choice for themselves and for their own reasons. To me, eating meat is more expensive in many senses - to buy, pollutes, takes life.

To make going green less expensive, consider:

Meat contains a lot of hormones, which leads to illness in long term (health care is expensive).

It's actually healthier to have a slice of pie, for person and environment, than to eat hormone injected meat. A slice of pie is much easier on the budget. As far as the risk that eating a pie for a meal might cause weight gain, consider a raw OR vegan (agave nectar sweetened, for example) pie or dessert.

Eating meat perpetuates a cycle. Eating unhealthy animals leads to unhealthy people, leading to health care needs; in the meantime the soil in being polluted, leading to more unhealthy vegetables as well. A lot of the so-called "natural" and "organic" foods nowadays need stricter standards. The definitions have become vague and lowered.

Other inexpensive ways to go green: thrift stores, say no to plastic bags, clean with baking soda and vinegar, make your own cosmetics, check out some of the old time ways! Check out this months' National Geographic Go Green Special Guide. Ask IPL.org for more ideas. The ideas are virtually endless! I could go on and on. My soapbox I guess

3:39PM PST on Dec 20, 2008

Going green is expensive! Often times to much for the home owner to do even with tax incentives. The renter is out of luck. Education has been great for the small stuff but the price is still out of reach for the average Joe.
Please sign this petition asking for help from environmental agencies. The government is slow even when they have a plan we can’t wait any longer
Collectively we can build green power plants with out the government. Pleas sign the petition asking environmental groups for assistance. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/green-power-plants

10:02AM PST on Dec 17, 2008

Lindsey said it well!

8:10AM PST on Dec 17, 2008

I am a little undecided on this one, because I do feel that some meat in the diet is sensible for good health, but on the other hand it would seem to benefit the planet to give it up. There is certainly food for thought here ;-)

5:47AM PST on Dec 17, 2008

A great gift idea for the holidays is to adopt an animal for that someone special! It helps them and gives a unique gift. I have done that for my grandson for the past 2 Christmas'.
He now has a polar bear and this year a penguin. It teaches them to be stewards and for $25 it comes with a little stuffed toy.
A Wonderful & Safe Holiday Season to All!!!

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