Changing our diet is about all that could actually wrangle the climate issue in time to do any good.
A study from Oxford published in the journal Science showed some interesting results about our food and our climate. One bowl of rice can have six times the climate impact of another. More greenhouse gases are emitted to give you a bottle of beer than to give you the same amount of beer from a keg. One cup of coffee’s carbon footprint may be fifteen times bigger than one made from a different crop of beans.
The study investigated the complexities of the world’s agriculture to determine the broad environmental impacts of food production.
Over 570 million farms produce over 5 billion tons of food a year, providing over 20 trillion calories to Earth’s almost 8 billion people. The process creates over 14 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq), over a quarter of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. Another 3 billion tons of CO2eq are emitted during nonfood agriculture and deforestation.
Today’s agriculture uses a lot of resources, covering 43% of the world’s ice- and desert-free land. Of this land, about 87% is for food and 13% is for biofuels and textile crops, wool and leather. Two-thirds of the planet’s freshwater is used for irrigation, usually during hot times of the year or in water-scarce areas, creating almost 95% of the world’s water scarcity.
But there are ways of reducing agriculture’s environmental impacts. The researchers consolidated data on the multiple environmental impacts of over 38,000 farms producing 40 different agricultural goods around the world in a meta-analysis comparing various ways of producing food.
Together with replacing all fossil fuels with hydro, nuclear and renewables, changing our diet is about all that could actually wrangle the climate issue in time to do any good. A pound of meat production produces more greenhouse gases, and uses more land, than a pound of all other foodstuffs – combined.
Never mind that the medical community has been saying for decades that we really need to eat less meat. Any successful Green New Deal must reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, as well as from every other sector.
According to the U.S. EPA, farming is responsible for a bout 10% of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. Almost half of that comes from animal agriculture. Two-thirds of the animal sector’s emissions are from animal farts and burps, and cows fart and burp the most, by far.
This isn’t just a problem in the U.S. More than two-thirds of global emissions from the livestock industry are due to cows—not just their gassiness, but their endless eating. Cows consume immense amounts of grain, which requires a lot of fertiliser, which emits nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas.
In addition, beef produces 33 pounds of carbon for every pound of beef, conventional pork 9 pounds of carbon for every pound of food, conventional chicken 6 pounds of carbon for every pound of food. This is in contrast to conventional soybeans which produce 2 pounds of carbon for every pound of food.
Changing farming practices may achieve a lot, but changing our diets would do a lot more.
Original source: www.forbes.com