A recent VICE News article spotlights the connection between animal agriculture and climate change.
Raising cattle for dairy and beef is one of the leading producers of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas that has 25 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide on a 100-year scale. As developing countries become wealthier and increasingly switch to a Western-style diet, global emissions are expected to rise.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that intestinal gas from livestock, mainly cattle, is the second-largest source of U.S. methane emissions. According to a report released by the EPA last week, these emissions added up to the equivalent of 648 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014, with manure adding another 60 million.
“Americans eat a huge amount of meat. We eat 60 percent more than Europeans and somewhere between 150 or 200 percent of our needs,” remarks Dawn Undurraga, a nutritionist with Environmental Working Group.
While many think eating chicken, a less carbon-intensive meat, is better for the environment, consuming just a four-ounce serving is still comparable to driving a typical car nearly two miles. The same size serving of pork adds another mile. British think-tank Chatham House reports that worldwide, livestock accounts for about 15 percent of global emissions and reducing consumption of animal products “will be critical” to hitting the climate change targets leaders set in Paris in December.
Governments of developing countries are trying to avoid the mistakes of the Western world. In Brazil, one of the largest beef producers, the government has established a set of dietary guidelines that encourages consumption of less carbon-intensive protein sources.
“I find it hard to believe we couldn’t waste less and eat better and not pollute the planet as much, Undurraga says.
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