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Carnivores Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Posted Dec 07 2009 4:35pm

The Copenhagen Conference on global warming begins this week, so the Green Moms Carnival is posting on this topic. You can see a summary of all the posts hosted by Diane of Big Green Purse on Dec. 9.

The main causes of global warming are commonly known to be the burning of fossil fuel, chlorofluorocarbons, agricultural practices, and changes in land use. I am constantly looking for ways to reduce my dependence on fossil fuel. I live in a state that is a heavy user of coal but, the energy company that furnishes my home with energy uses some green sources such as wind and landfill gases.  If I walk to the end of the street I live on and look to the  west, I can see a wind turbine peeking over the horizon.  I avoid chlorofluorocarbons.  I am looking for a new angle in my own behavior to help reduce my contribution to global warming.

Just being a North American means that I, with my indulgent American habits, contribute more to global warming that the average world citizen.  The US emits more greenhouse gases that any other country in the world (36% of the world’s emissions).  In 1990 at the Kyoto conference, the US agreed to decrease its greenhouse gases emissions by 6 %, then we pulled out. Our emissions have gone up by 15% since then. So much for voluntary compliance, former President George W. Bush!  The average American produces almost 20 tons of carbon dioxide per year while the average citizen of China produces around 5 tons per year. The US definitely has to change its ways.

Animal agriculture is one of the largest causes of global warming.  It produces methane and nitrous oxide, 2 greenhouse gases that are many times worse than carbon dioxide.  Animal agriculture uses vast amounts of land and water, contributing to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and water pollution.  The feeding and production of livestock produces 18% of global greenhouse gases, about the same contributed by modern transportation.

Producing 1 kilo of beef requires 13,000 - 100,000 liters of water while producing 1 kilo of wheat requires 500 - 2,000 liters of water. One calorie of beef protein requires 10 times the energy than 1 calorie of plant protein. One hectare of land produces beef for 1 person while it could produce rice for 19 people.  Obviously, one of the most effective ways one person can cut emissions of greenhouse gases and, therefore, reduce global warming, is to reduce the amount of meat and dairy consumed.

There are many levels of reducing ones meat and dairy consumption.  You can be a vegetarian, a vegan, an organic vegan - all reduce greenhouse emissions by 50-94%.  The health benefits of eliminating or reducing our consumption of meat and dairy are huge:

Improves blood pressure
Lowers cholesterol levels
Reduces type-2 diabetes
Prevents strokes
Prevents atherosclerosis
Reduces heart disease risks by 50%
Prevents many types of cancer
Boosts immune system
Increases life expectancy up to 15 years

If you are trying to get yourself or your family to become vegetarian, you know this is no easy task.  I have tried it in the past and heard lots of whining and complaining.  My current goal is to reduce my own consumption and since I’m the cook in the house, my husband will be reducing his meat consumption, too.  When we do eat meat, it will be locally produced.  If every American ate 20% less meat, it would reduce greenhouse gases as much as if everyone in the US drove a Prius. Twenty percent is one day out of five. This is a concrete way for each individual to help reduce the impact of climate change.  Do it for the health of the earth.

Watch this video called “Meatless Monday” for some motivation.
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