Report shows how cows hold the key to stopping climate chaos

Cow
Ed Sykes

Climate experts from the World Resources Institute (WRI) have just launched a new report, which suggests that cows hold the key to stopping the climate chaos facing humanity today.

The WRI launched its report at the UN’s climate change summit in Poland. And it insisted that we need to reduce our consumption of beef drastically in order to feed ourselves sustainably without adding to the ongoing climate catastrophe.

Step away from the beef

Recommending a shift towards “healthier, more sustainable diets”, the WRI stressed that:

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Consumption of ruminant meat (beef, lamb and goat) is projected to rise 88 percent between 2010 and 2050. Beef, the most commonly consumed ruminant meat, is resource-intensive to produce, requiring 20 times more land and emitting 20 times more GHGs [greenhouse gases] per gram of edible protein than common plant proteins

And if each person ate the equivalent of only “1.5 hamburgers per week” of such meat by 2050, that would help to reduce greenhouse gases by half of what the world needs to stop the “worst climate impacts”.

To achieve this kind of change, the report recommends “improving the marketing of plant-based foods, improving meat substitutes and implementing policies that favour consumption of plant-based foods”. And to show the impact beef consumption currently has on the planet, it shared the following graphic:

It also summarised the challenges facing the world with the graphic below:

‘The single biggest thing we can do to fight climate chaos’

Reports have previously suggested that the meat industry (beef and dairy in particular) makes up at least half of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for today’s climate chaos. Another scientific analysis showed how ending meat and dairy consumption would cut global farmland use by over 75%, and how livestock occupies over 80% of farmland but produces only 18% of the calories we consume. The lead researcher concluded that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth”. The BBC, meanwhile, also insisted recently (summarising guidance from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists) that:

The single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet is to modify your diet to include less meat

And while not everyone will give up meat altogether, Twitter users have definitely been spreading the word:

Not a vegan crusade

The global meat industry’s rapid growth is showing few signs of slowing down. But it’s putting a massive strain on Earth’s resources, causing many species of animals to die off in the process. It’s also playing a leading role in water waste and deforestation. And that’s not even mentioning animal rights, the many benefits of eating less meat (from health to finances), or the disproportionate effect climate change has on Earth’s poorest people (who hardly eat meat in comparison to Western diets).

But as author Matt Haig suggested, this isn’t a vegan crusade. It’s simply about highlighting the urgent need for change:

If we care about the future of our planet, and our children who’ll inherit what’s left of it, then our eating habits must change. At the very least, we need to cut the amount of beef we eat. No ifs, no buts.

Featured image via Steven Zolneczko/Flickr

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    1. well done for the Canary covering this. I’m stunned many outlets that go cover climate change and more stunning that big or small Green groups themselves and parties have not addressed how meat is actually worse for the planet and even if we stopped all fossil fuel extraction/consumption we are still fucked because how we consume our food. So I hope more reports on this and shame on the many outlets and Green groups or figures ignoring this with the exception of Wrong kind of Green, Chris Hedges, Nellie Mckay. Highly recommend the film Meat the Truth and Cowspiracy.

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