According the the WorldWatch Institute (and an old post of our own) livestock contribute 18% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, even higher than the GHG emissions from transportation. As part of this figure they produce 37% of methane, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. And if that weren’t enough to be concerned about, their manure emits nitrous oxide, 65% of world totals. WorldWatch also point out that in the United States, 70% of all anti-microbial drugs are now given to livestock.
Yet for all the welcoming news regarding decreased SUV sales, increased bicycle purchases and servicing, increased green home building, and so on, meat production, is on WorldWatch’s figures not declining. And in fact they see signs it is on the rise, with poultry, pig and beef production increasing between 2% and 4%. They dig out figures which indicate that globally about 56 billion animals are raised and slaughtered for food each year, the bulk of whom are ‘produced’ in factory farms.Lancet says Eat Less Meat
WorldWatch’s statistically rich report by Brian Halweil concludes by quoting that much esteemed medical journal, The Lancet. It recommends that the industrial world chomp on 10% less meat to limit greenhouse gas emissions, whilst enhancing human health, going on to say, "For the world's higher-income populations, greenhouse-gas emissions from meat-eating warrant the same scrutiny as do those from driving and flying."
And this scrutiny maybe indeed be happening. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mark Tracy, owner of the organic vegan cafe The Forest, in Brisbane, Queenland, had noticed a change in attitudes among his customer base. He said that most still became vegetarians because of animal cruelty, but "the cost to the environment is now a close second".
In their Greenhome project, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) suggest that removing just one 150-gram serve of beef a week would culminate in a saving of 10,000 litres of water and 300 kilograms of greenhouse gases. (That’s 5oz, 2,642 gallons and 660 lb for our non-metric brethren.) Possibly those figures are so high because Aussies chow down on an average 110kg (243 lbs) of meat yearly.
All of which is certainly (what’s that old cliche?) food for thought.
More TreeHugger on Meat and Climate Change
• Study Finds Meat and Dairy Create More Emissions Than Miles
• What's Our Beef With Climate Change?
• How to Green Your Meals