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Study: Global Veganism Would Reduce Carbon Emissions More Than Energy Intervention


Vegan Spring RollsProducing nearly 15% of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions, the meat industry is one of the top contributors to climate change. Slowly, very slowly, movements like Meatless Mondays and Vegan Before 6 have demonstrated the value, and deliciousness, of adopting a vegan diet, but a carnivorous diet is still seen as evidence of prosperity.

In 2009, researchers at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency calculated that global veganism would reduce agriculture-related carbon emissions by nearly 17%, methane emissions by 24%, and nitrous oxide emissions by 21% by 2050.

The researchers discovered that worldwide veganism, or even just worldwide vegetarianism, would achieve gains at a much lower cost that an energy intervention, like carbon taxes, for instance.

The study demonstrated tremendous value of a vegan or vegetarian diet in staving off climate change, but there are so many other benefits as well. Antibiotic resistance stemming from the meat consumed that has been pumped full of antibiotics would plummet. Pollution rates would drop significantly as factory farms, the biggest polluters in the meat industry, became a thing of the past. General human health and well-being would rise from a plant-based diet free from cholesterol and pharmaceuticals.

By 2050, the global population is predicted to reach a staggering 9 BILLION people. What are we going to do with all the cows currently taking up 25% of the Earth’s land area?

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  1. I hardly think veganism is a solution, and I have eaten only vegan for 2 weeks now. It would be much better to look in detail at these greenhouse gas emissions per sector and per region, and take lessons from them. For instance, the Americas which grow a lot of corn and soybean feed for livestock has the lowest GHG emissions between them, Europe and Asia, which has over 4 times more.
    So farming practices such as no-till which is now the mainstay in the U.S. seem to have a great impact on carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. Confined livestock operations, if that’s what consumers want to get cheap meat, are not great for our taste buds, but provide an unique opportunity to control methane emissions. More and more dairies are equipped with biomethane digesters and a hundred solar panels or two on their barn roof. And they mostly did it because it made sense financially. The environmental argument was just a bonus.

    Now all is not green and dandy in the U.S., there are still way too much chemical fertilizer and pesticides ending up in the rivers, ground water, Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s a sector that has reduced its GHG emissions much faster than any other sector. In the U.S., agriculture is responsible for only 8.2 to 10% of GHG emissions, the lowest of any other sector, so there’s still work to do, but electricity production (coal and natural gas power plants), transportation (your daily commute) and the industry are responsible for 80% of all GHG emissions, surely that should be the first focus of any strategy to reduce GHG emissions rather than constantly hitting on farmers who are slowly but surely (because it’s a very conservative sector) getting there already.

    If going vegan is not a practical option at this stage, reducing our meat fat and protein intake from our current over-consumption would certainly be better for our health. That’s probably the main argument I would use, as people tend to connect better to what’s personal to them, rather than the vague “The Environment.”



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