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.
Photo by Jody Boyman