The amount of time left save the planet is rapidly shrinking. However, there’s something each of us can do about it – and it begins at breakfast.

Every year, we learn that our scientific assumptions underestimate just how bad things are, and that the amount of time left to address this crisis is rapidly shrinking. However, there’s something each of us can do about it – and it begins at breakfast.

You are likely to be surprised by a statistic very few of us know, nor fully absorb. It’s a statistic that is so huge, it’s kind of hard to believe it’s not on the tips of all our tongues every waking moment. Here it is:

Livestock production accounts for at least 51%* of all greenhouse gases (GHG). Said another way, eating animals accounts for a significant amount of all the climate carnage that we’re witnessing across the world. 

Yes, it’s nice to buy an electric car (depending on the energy source), but in order to transition away from fossil fuels, it’s estimated that we’d need north of $50 trillion dollars over a twenty year period. That is neither financially feasible nor immediate enough to address the fact that our house is burning right now. Meanwhile, we get closer and closer to our climate tipping point, whereby no amount of action will fix what we have broken.

Our diets, on the other hand, can change today. You and me can collectively eat a plant-based diet two times a day or more, and effectively help solve our entire climate crisis, one bite at a time.

Here are some stats to drive the point home:

  • 26% of our land globally is used to raise livestock, and 33% for growing feed. If we allowed this land to generate back into forest, we could offset up to half of all GHGs, and possibly all of them.
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 90% of deforestation in the Amazon. It’s also the leading cause of methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Methane has 34 times the ability to trap heat in our atmosphere compared to CO2. Nitrous oxide has over 300 times that amount.
  • Forests have more carbon stored in them than all of the known / discovered fossil fuels in the world. If we keep burning them down to grow cows/feed, it’ll be like burning all the oil/gas/coal in the ground, burning the planet up in the process.
  • If cows were a country, they’d be the 3rd largest carbon emitter behind China and the US.
  • Livestock also requires more refrigeration, which releases more fluorocarbons (thousands of times more global warming potential than CO2) into the air.
  • Rainforests normally store 200 tons of carbon per hectare. When you convert it to grassland to graze cows, its drops to 8. In contrast, when these forests are burned, they can release 200 tons of carbon per hectare.

In a 19-page report, Robert Goodland, a former lead environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, a current adviser, suggest that domesticated animals cause 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), more than the combined impact of industry and energy.

“If this argument is right,” writes Goodland and Anhang, “it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on greenhouse gas emissions and their atmospheric concentrations than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.”

The Chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, has described eating less meat as “the most attractive opportunity” for making immediate changes to climate change.

It’s not rocket science. We need to eat fewer animal products. And by fewer, I mean a lot less. A great start, would be to eat a plant-based diet for breakfast and lunch every day. Others preach for vegan weekdays or Meatless Mondays. Whatever your method, there is no room for inaction.

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