ANIMAL AG IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
In most reporting on the climate emergency, animal agriculture is not even mentioned at all, as the burning of fossil fuels is treated as the chief, if not the only, cause of atmospheric heating. Sometimes, animal agriculture earns a mention, and then it is usually portrayed as a minor factor, with its contributions to greenhouse gases estimated most often at around 15%, following the lead of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
There is good reason to believe, however, that animal agriculture is far and away the leading cause of global warming, dwarfing the contribution of fossil fuel combustion. Dr. Sailesh Rao, in a published, peer-reviewed paper (find it at www.climatehealers.org), estimated that contribution to be “at least 87%.” There is, in fact, no way to reverse global warming without at least severely reducing the number of farmed animals in the world. Ideally, that number would be zero.
Can the difference between the two assessments—15% vs. “at least 87%”—be explained as a highly technical mathematical or scientific disagreement regarding measurements of gases that are warming the atmosphere? Are the different sides working with conflicting sets of
Not so much. The difference between the two sides has more to do with mindset than measurement. The two sides are working with different approaches to reality. On the dominant side—the side that downplays the catastrophic toll of animal agriculture on the climate, the side that makes pronouncements from global climate summits and dominates the media—minds are simply closed. The current state of use of the earth, with 37% of its non-ice land surface given over to grazing, and an additional 6% of its non-ice land surface given over to growing grains to feed animals, is unquestioned; it is accepted as normal and natural. Land use is not up for debate or consideration. We simply must have 25 billion farmed animals, the thinking goes, or else what would people eat? We simply must engage in deforestation in order to create grazing land, or else how would we support and feed
1.5 billion cows? We simply must devote more than 40% of the earth to grazing, or how else would ranchers earn a living?
On the other side, the side struggling to get its message out beyond the din of those obsessed with fossil fuel burning, minds are open. Dr. Rao and his colleagues effectively ask, why must we accept the world as it is? Is it written in the stars that we must give over so much of the planet to 1.5 billion cows?
It is, of course, not written in the stars. And if humanity did not devote more than 40% of the non-ice land surface of the earth to farming animals for the strange purpose of eating them, an extraordinarily foolish practice known to result in heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer, among other diseases, then that land could be used for other purposes. The most vital use for most of that land would be to rewild it—to simply allow forests and vegetation and wildlife to return. Dr. Rao has done the math to determine how much carbon dioxide would be sequestered from the atmosphere if even 41% of that land could be restored to forest. And the answer is: enough to end the climate emergency, and return us to pre-Industrial Age levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The side obsessed with fossil fuels considers it “unrealistic” for humans to stop eating animals—even though as primates we are not designed biologically to consume them—but apparently does not consider it “unrealistic” to reduce fossil fuel burning to “zero.” Many have called for a complete stop to the burning of fossil fuels, but they refrain from extrapolating to the consequences of such a policy—few, for example, say that we must put an end to the airline industry and all forms of aviation. They feel that they’re on safer ground just attacking fossil fuels. People, after all, like flying much more than they like the fossil fuel industry.
There’s nothing unrealistic about stopping the stupidity of eating animals. There are already tens of millions of vegans in the world, and we find it very easy to limit ourselves to eating human food. We’re healthier and we live longer than meat-eaters. Humanity, if it only had the wisdom, could easily make this change overnight and thereby save the planet.
And while humanity of course will not do so, you can.
Even if we could magically stop burning all fossil fuels overnight, the planet would continue to warm—a consequence of the deforestation required to provide land for animal agriculture, and of the methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide emissions that are attendant to its practice. We would also lose the planet-cooling sulfur aerosols that result from fossil fuel burning.
If we wisely stopped eating animals overnight, and rewilded the grazing land, the planet would begin to cool, even as fossil fuel burning continued.
There is only one solution to the climate emergency, and that is to stop the stupidity of eating animals.