We are in a climate crisis. Our planet is warming and as a result, our climate is changing and our environment becoming increasingly degraded.
Every year, we release billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the environment, through the burning of fossil fuels. These gases work to trap heat in our Earth’s atmosphere and as a direct result, our planet has been steadily warming for many years and at a more accelerated rate as of late.
While there exists some disagreement around the critical threshold for global temperature, it was decided in the Paris Agreement of 2015 that we ought to keep the average below 2°C, though preferably 1.5°C. Unfortunately, the data shows that it has been approximately 344 months since we recorded a below average month for global temperature.
This warming of the planet is responsible for the emergence of more extreme weather events, the melting of the Artic ice, the death of coral reefs, desertification, biodiversity loss and water scarcity. The list goes on. No one corner of the globe is immune from the devastating consequences of climate change. From the wildfires which scorched 18.626 million hectares of Australlian land between June 2019 and May 2020 to the 2020 Chinese floods that displaced 744,000 people across 26 provinces.
The situation seems dire. At the time of writing, the Climate Clock estimated that we had around 6 years and 228 days to act, before irreversible climate catastrophe. Not much to work with.
But, something to work with is better than nothing to work with. As António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations remarked at the 2019 Climate Action Summit: "the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win”.
So what can we do to help fights back against climate change? Well, the good news is that there are so many ways in which as we individuals can have an impact on this global issue. A quick google search and you’ll many an infographic detailing the small changes that you can make to your usual daily routine to help fight back. Turning of the light when you leave the room, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, driving less and cycling more, planting a tree and recycling waste.
While these are all very important practises that we ought to adopt, what these infographics often fail to mention is the impact of the food that we eat. Backed with scientific evidence, there is reason to believe that we should think about the food on our plate as much, if not more, than the number of showers. In fact, our production and consumption of food has been identified as one of the most significant contributors to current state of the climate. Estimates suggest that approximately 30% of total environmental impact caused by Western countries is derived from the food industry.
But simply abstaining from food isn't an option. We need food to survive. So how can we reduce the environmental foot print associated with the food that we eat, while still consume a nutritionally adequate diet?
Well, it seems that the answer might be in a vegan diet. When it comes to food, particularly problematic is our consumption of animal-derived food products: meat, fish, eggs and dairy. These products are more damaging to the environment than plant-based alternatives, because of the inefficiencies associated with converting animal feed into dietary protein. Now there is a growing consensus that without a global reduction in meat consumption, it will be impossible to stabilize the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C.
But exactly how and to what extent is our consumption of animal-derived food products damaging the environment and contributing to climate change? And is cutting these products out of our diet a sure fire way help protect the planet?
In this blog series, I will be providing more detail on these very questions as I dive into some of the environmental issues and climate change consequences linked with the production and consumption of animal-derived food products. Along the way, I will explore the issues of greenhouse gases, deforestation, water conservation and pollution. In doing so, I endeavour to show just how impactful our consumption of meat is in relation to the environment as well as how simple switches to more plant-based eating can have positive consequences for change.