The livestock system is a major driver in global climate change. Unfortunately, it is one of the most overlooked and underestimated sectors. In 2009, Worldwatch Institute published a study called “Livestock and Climate Change” that detailed the many (largely) unaccounted for greenhouse gas emissions that livestock contributes to our atmosphere. According to this study’s findings, livestock production is responsible for as much as 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet – the number that is most commonly shared is 14.5 percent, which is from the UN FAO’s report “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock,” which was published in 2013. Regardless of which number is wildly accepted, industrial animal agriculture still accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector – however, when it comes to talking about ways to combat climate change, few organizations point toward reducing meat and dairy consumption.
A recent study carried out by scientists from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, however, found that if we simply lowered our consumption of animal products, it could have massive positive results for the environment.
The study projects that by 2050, food-related greenhouse gas emissions could account for half of the emissions the world can afford if global warming is to be limited to less than 2°C. Adopting global dietary guidelines would cut food-related emissions by 29%, vegetarian diets by 63%, and vegan diets by 70%. This is no small finding considering we are in a literal race against time to combat climate change. So if you want to make a difference, why not start by eating plant-based.
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