Veganism & The Environment
Agriculture counts for around 20-30% of our global emissions. If we are to hope to solve the climate crisis we have to do something about our global food system. But what should we do? What are the biggest emitters?
According to the big climate database, which is run by the Danish Technical University, meat specifically red meats and especially beef have an order of magnitude higher emissions per kg. compared to vegan protein alternatives such as chickpeas and lentils.
There are more than 92 billion land animals who are being bred, raised, and slaughtered for food each year, and animal agriculture accounts for more than 16.5% of global emissions. Despite the large emissions of more than half of the total emissions from food production, animals only provide 18% of the calories, and if we are to keep within 1.5C of warming, animal production as it is today would account for half of the emission budget by 2030. Something needs to change.
However, why is meat worse for the climate than plant based diets? One way of thinking about it is to observe that animals need to eat food too, generally plants, to grow meat which can then be eaten by humans. However, animals are not very effective meat-growing machines. They are alive sentient creatures who spend energy on socializing, walking around; being alive things that are not just growing muscle tissue, so you end up with eating way more plants by proxy when you're eating meat. And that's not considering emissions from other sources than farming the plants such as methane, and nitrous oxide through enteric fermentation, as well as transportation, and emissions from the slaughter process.
What can we do about it? It is clear that if we are to hope to avert the ongoing climate crisis, we have to dismantle industrial animal agriculture, and rethink our relationship to meat. It will require a global coordinated political effort. However, you can start making a difference already today. By replacing just a single meal with a plant based alternative, you're helping, and if you start replacing more meals with plant based options, you will progressively do more to combat climate change.