Environmental Impact

When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner. But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet and is one of the largest contributors to climate change.

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5C above preindustrial levels – a deadline that human race needs to confront by 2030 to achieve a significant cut on Greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. The warning was backed by one of the most comprehensive research conducted by Oxford which were published in the journal NATURE in 25 October 2018.

GHG Emissions

The livestock sector is among the greatest contributors to global warming. It is estimated to emit 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum, representing 14.5 percent of all human-induced emissions. Cattle are the animal species responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions. (FAO, 2013, “Tackling climate change through livestock”)

Depletion of natural resources

1 kg of beef produces 27.0 kg carbon dioxide, while the same amount of tomato produces 1.1 kg only. Water is part of food production process. Comparing with beef, only one-tenth of water is required to produce wheat. Go Green Monday also saves 1611 litres of water per day which is equivalent to showering for 20 times.

Efficiency of energy conversion

36% of global agriculture output is NOT fed to people, but to livestock in order to satisfy the demand of meat in developed countries. At the same time, at least 870 million people are still hungry in the world. Animals consume large quantities of grain, soybeans, and corn, but it could only produce small amount of food and lose most of the nutrition. The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed in the world.

Culprit of Pollution

“The Food system is a major driver of climate change, changes in land use, deplation of freshwater resouces, and pollution of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems through excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inputs.”An estimated 1.29 billion metric tonnes of waste is produced by the Chinese pork industry per year. In North America, the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is an oxygen-depleted ocean caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that comes from the hog industry.

References:

  1. Global Warming of 1.5  °C , https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
  2. Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0594-0

Impact Appeared on News