Livestock Farming and Climate Change
According to the UN’s think tank the Global Humanitarian Forum, climate change is already responsible for approximately 300,000 deaths a year and a further 300 million are affected by climate change. It is estimated that between 2030 and 2050 around 250,000 additional deaths will be caused as a result of climate change. The effects of climate change include rising sea levels, droughts, flooding, forest fires and the depletion of eco-systems, with many of the world’s species already under threat of extinction. In the past century temperatures have risen by 0.7 degrees. Experts believe that to avoid catastrophic consequences temperatures increases need to be kept below 2 degrees centigrade compared to industrial times.
Worldwide, it is estimated that about 25% of greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture, including the effects of deforestation and other land use changes. Due to more efficient systems, in the EU livestock production forms 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, whilst in the UK this is 8.5%. These figures include the methane animals emit, deforestation for land to raise animals or grow their food, and the fertilizers used to grow animal feed. Methane is a greenhouse gas 23 times more effective than carbon dioxide. This is produced by farm animals when they belch, fart and go to the toilet. More animals = more methane. Nitrous oxide which also comes from manure is 298 times stronger. Beef is the most energy intensive - producing 1kg generates the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the amount of CO2 emitted by a car driving 250km! Animal waste also contributes towards acid rain and accounts for 64 percent of ammonia emissions (FAO 2006).
You can reduce your own “carbon footprint” (the amount of carbon each person is responsible for producing though their daily activities) simply by reducing meat in your diet. A third of our personal carbon footprint comes from the food we eat (how it is produced, where its transported from, how it’s processed) and half of that is from eating meat, so we can make a real difference in reducing our consumption. If the average household in the UK halved its consumption of meat, it would reduce emissions more than if car use was halved.Read More: Deforestation