Beef has the Biggest Impact on Climate Change

Jan 17, 2019 | BY Albert Font de Rubinat

There has been a lot of talk about avoiding single use plastics, saving water and energy and using public transport. But did you ever ask what can be the easiest and most impactful change in your lifestyle to reduce your environmental impact?

While governments need to make big changes – individuals can play a role too. Scientists say we all have to make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to our lifestyles, in order to avoid severely damaging climate change.

There has been a lot of talk about avoiding single use plastics, saving water and energy and using public transport. But did you ever ask what can be the easiest and most impactful change in your lifestyle?

The single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet is to modify your diet to include less meat.

The IPCC says we need to:

  • Buy less meat, milk, cheese and other dairy products.
  • Eat more locally sourced seasonal food – and throw less of it away.
  • Drive electric cars but walk or cycle short distances.
  • Take trains and buses instead of planes and use videoconferencing instead of business travel.
  • Use a washing line instead of a tumble dryer.
  • Insulate homes.
  • Demand low carbon in every consumer product.

 

Beef has the Biggest Impact on Climate Change_climate_change_food_v3-nc

 

Scientists say we ought to eat less meat because of the carbon emissions the meat industry produces, as well as other negative environmental impacts.

A recent study published in the journal Science highlighted a massive variation in the environmental impact of producing the same food.
For example, beef cattle raised on deforested land produces 12 times more greenhouse gas emissions than those reared on natural pastures.

Crucially, the analysis shows that meat with the lowest environmental impact still creates more greenhouse gas emissions than growing vegetables and cereal crops in the least environmentally-friendly way.
But as well as altering our diets, research suggests that farming practices need to change significantly to benefit the environment.

The biggest analysis to date reveals a huge footprint of livestock – it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland.

 

Beef has the Biggest Impact on Climate Change - cows

 

The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

 

Source: Poore & Nemecek 2018

 

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