How much of an impact does eating meat really have on our planet?

Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered - The New York Times

16/4/2021

(2-4 minute read)

Consuming meat is a cultural pastime around the world and a large part of people’s identity. Meat is a staple food group in societies around the world, but since the turn of the 20th century the wealthy middle class have significantly increased their appetite for animal products. This is especially prevalent in rich western countries that are coming to grips with the health effects of a meat heavy diet. Eating an excessive amount of meat can increase the risk of obesity, cancer and heart disease. Moreover, its impact on the planet through the farming methods of the livestock industry have a greater impact on than all cars, trucks and automobiles combined. The environmental impact alone of clearing forests for grazing, which were once able to consume carbon is a devastating turnaround for global greenhouse gas emissions.

Knowing all this, I’m not preaching that everyone should adopt a meat free lifestyle immediately. It is however in the best interests of all inhabitants of the globe to instill a consciousness around the impact their plate has. Shifting to a sustainable diet, compromising of more plant-based foods is a key to combating the forthcoming irreparable effects of climate change. By foregoing some diary and meat meals each week, the communal impact on the environment would be enormous.

“It would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect.”

A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes a policy recommendation regarding dietary change to a more plant-based diet as a major avenue to mitigate climate change.

“We don’t want to tell people what to eat,” says Hans-Otto Pörtner, an ecologist who co-chairs the IPCC’s working groups. “But it would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect.”

At the end of the day, our collective efforts as a race to halt the forthcoming impact of global warming will fall drastically short if we don’t change our habits surrounding agriculture and what we put on our plates day by day. An interesting assessment of the agriculture industry and humanity is that we now make up 96% of all mammals. While we dominate the land, this monopoly only accounts for just 18% of global calories.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though! Here are some simple small steps toward this goal

  • Include more fresh vegetables and fruits into your daily eating plan.
  • Purchased organic and more sustainable fresh produce from your local grocer.
  • Set days where you don’t eat meat.
  • Set days where you don’t eat dairy.