Just in time for 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action on October 24th (see what Brighter Green will be up to here), comes a new study on meat–and dairy–and the climate that’s, for lack of a more elegant term, a mouthful. A really big gulp. “Livestock and their by-products actually account for at least 32,564 million tons of C02 equivalent per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emission,” write researchers Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang in the latest issue of World Watch.
That’s a huge amount by any measure, and nearly three times the 18% of total GHGs estimate by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006 which itself was vast (nearly one-fifth). Now, not all climate campaigners are omnivorous, nor are all caught in a dilemma about what to eat. The 350.org website’s fact sheet on food and climate includes this (exclamation mark, too): “The meat that we eat is the largest food contributor to climate change!” But the impacts of food, and animal-derived foods in particular, still aren’t central to the climate debate. As climate advocates gather to make their voices, numbers and priorities known at myriad 350.org events, this new news on the GHG intensity of meat and dairy (message: it’s intense) needs to be digested.
“If this argument is right,” Goodland and Anhang write, “it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change.” As the animal-foods-heavy Western diet and means of producing meat become part and parcel of the process of globalization, climate-friendly eating needs a place at the global table. Based on Goodland and Anhang’s findings, that place ought to be set to encompass just about half the table.