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A Global Dietary Imperative to Global Warming . Saurabh F. Dalal Vegetarian Society of DC [email protected] 202-362-VEGY. Outline. Main Idea Background on Global Warming Animal Agriculture and Its Impacts Examples of Inefficiency Conclusion Resources. Main Idea.

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A global dietary imperative to global warming

A Global Dietary Imperative to Global Warming

Saurabh F. Dalal

Vegetarian Society of DC

[email protected]



  • Main Idea

  • Background on Global Warming

  • Animal Agriculture and Its Impacts

  • Examples of Inefficiency

  • Conclusion

  • Resources

Main idea
Main Idea

  • Human activities have changed the composition of the atmosphere and therefore are influencing the Earth's climate, particularly in global warming

  • The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation have caused the concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to increase significantly in our atmosphere

  • Although rarely addressed, it is increasingly clear that eliminating the production and consumption of meat and other animal products on a global scale is vital in reducing global warming and other grave environmental threats, and so doing reduces the extraordinary waste of water, land, fuel and other precious resources

    • Also benefits people's physical and spiritual health

    • Prevents the massive mistreatment of non-human farmed animals as well as our effects on others

Global warming background
Global Warming Background

  • Definition: an increase in the average temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns

  • Refers even more to the decades of this century and the projected continuation of this increase

  • Can occur from a variety of causes, both natural and anthropogenic (human-induced)

  • Scientists are certain that human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere and responsible for most of the warming in recent decades (*1)

  • Global average air temperature near the Earth's surface rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °Celsius (1.3 ± 0.32 °Fahrenheit) in the last century (*2)

*1 EPA; *2 IPCC

Greenhouse gases temperatures
Greenhouse Gases & Temperatures

  • Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere

  • Greenhouse gases (compounds) include: water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) etc, ozone (O3)

  • Necessary for life as we know it… but increased concentrations result in increased temperatures on the Earth

  • Warmest global average temperatures on record have all occurred within the past 15 years; warmest two years being 1998 and 2005

  • If the concentration of greenhouse gases continues to increase, then by 2100, climate models referenced by the IPCC* predict that global temperatures are likely to increase by 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) above 1990 levels


  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

  • Body established in 1988 and comprised of two United Nations organizations

    • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

    • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

  • Evaluates the risk of climate change brought on by humans, based mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature

  • Reports are widely cited and the panel is regarded as authoritative

Other resulting changes
Other Resulting Changes

  • An increase in global temperatures can in turn cause other changes:

    • rising sea level, flooding, submerged islands

    • changes in the amount/pattern of precipitation

    • increases in the frequency/intensity of extreme weather events; record heat, wildfires, droughts, shrinking lakes

    • glacier retreat, permafrost melt, reduced summer streamflows

    • acidification of the oceans

    • destruction of wildlife habitats

    • endangered species & extinctions

    • changes in agricultural yields

    • increases in the ranges of disease vectors

    • environmental refugees

General mitigation categories
General Mitigation Categories

  • Five categories of actions that can be taken to mitigate global warming:

    • Reduction of energy use (per person)

    • Shifting from carbon-based fossil fuels to alternative energy sources

    • Carbon capture and storage

    • Geo-engineering including carbon sequestration

    • Population / birth control, to lessen demand for resources such as energy and land clearing

General mitigation strategies
General Mitigation Strategies

  • Mitigation Strategies for Global Warming

    • energy conservation

    • renewable energy such as bio-mass/bio-diesel, solar power, tidal and ocean energy, geothermal power, and wind power

    • electric or hybrid automobiles; fuel cells

    • development of new technologies

    • carbon offsets; carbon credits; carbon taxes; enhancing natural carbon dioxide sinks; carbon capture and storage

    • population control

  • Governments, corporations, schools, religious institutions, and other organizations to get actively involved as well as individual-lifestyle and political action

Us climate policy
US Climate Policy

  • US government policy has three components

    • Slowing the growth of emissions

    • Strengthening science, technology and institutions

    • Enhancing international cooperation

  • Implementation uses voluntary and incentive-based programs to reduce emissions

  • In 2002, the US announced a strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the American economy by 18 percent over the 10-year period from 2002 to 2012

Specific mitigation strategy plant based diets
Specific Mitigation Strategy:Plant-based Diets

  • The important set of connections between global warming and animal agriculture along with the increasingly globalized Standard American Diet (SAD) have generally been overlooked or marginalized

  • In addition to technology developments and the like, it is necessary to change the consciousness of people and subsequently their personal behaviors on a large scale, a major component of which is a shift to plant-based diets

  • Dispel the myth that technology alone will solve each and every problem

  • Technology changes often have negative side effects whereas positive dietary shifts are accompanied by a number of other important benefits, e.g. improved personal and public health, animal concerns

Role of animal agriculture
Role of Animal Agriculture

  • Overuse of the land by livestock, leads to overuse of fuel and water, also degrades the land and pollutes the water around it

  • Contributes to additional environmental and health problems

  • Animal-based diets use energy very inefficiently

  • In total, livestock industry uses (and abuses) roughly 30% of the planet's surface

  • In direct competition with other activities for scarce land, water, and other natural resources

    • Conflicts arise over resources

Role of animal agriculture1
Role of Animal Agriculture

  • United Nations - Food and Agriculture Organization (2006 Report)

    • States that animal-based agriculture causes approximately 18% of greenhouse gas emissions

    • Amount greater than that caused by all forms of transportation on the planet combined; so cars are still problematic but cows are contributing more to global warming

    • Therefore, what we eat is actually more important than what we drive

Emissions from animal agriculture
Emissions from Animal Agriculture

  • 9 % of all CO2 emissions

  • 37 % of methane (CH4) emissions

    • CH4: 23 times global warming potential of CO2

  • 65 % of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions

    • N2O: 296 times global warming potential of CO2

  • Researchers at the University of Chicago found that the average American diet, including all food processing steps, produces an extra 1.5 tons of CO2-equivalent (annually), compared to a meat-free diet

Rising demand of animal agriculture
Rising Demand of Animal Agriculture

  • Demand in the developing world is projected to double meat and dairy production globally by 2050 (UN FAO)

  • Report considers only land mammals, and does not address egg, poultry, and seafood consumption

  • Hence, the impact of animal agriculture is far greater than the FAO report indicates, and will worsen still more if present dietary trends continue

  • ~ 55 billion animals are reared worldwide to be killed and eaten annually

  • ~ 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States (and over a third produced worldwide) is inefficiently diverted to feed farmed animals (despite great hunger in many parts of the world)

  • With fresh-water sources dwindling rapidly, we are using up to 14 times as much water than that required for completely plant-based diets

Despoiling the environment
Despoiling the Environment

  • Animal Agriculture is a vastly inefficient use of resources

    • Food IN to ‘Food’ OUT

    • Water

    • Land

    • Energy

  • Animal Agriculture causes environmental devastation as a consequence

    • Land, water, air

    • Manure / urine

    • Rainforest destruction

Enormous resource inefficiency
Enormous Resource Inefficiency


  • How many pounds of Grain are used to make 1 pound of beef ?

Enormous resource inefficiency1
Enormous Resource Inefficiency

  • How many pounds of Grain are used to make 1 pound of beef ?

    12-16 pounds

  • 8 loaves of bread

  • 24 plates of spaghetti

Enormous resource inefficiency2
Enormous Resource Inefficiency


  • How many gallons of Water are used to make 1 pound of beef ?

Enormous resource inefficiency3
Enormous Resource Inefficiency

  • How many gallons of Water are used to make 1 pound of beef ?

    2500-5000 gallons

  • Ave person’s shower for 6 months

  • Gal/pound: tomatoes 25, wheat 25, apples 50

Enormous resource inefficiency4
Enormous Resource Inefficiency


  • How many calories of fossil fuel are spent to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef ?

Enormous resource inefficiency5
Enormous Resource Inefficiency

  • How many calories of fossil fuel are spent to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef ?

    78 calories

  • 2 calories for soybeans

  • energy needed to produce a pound of grain-fed beef is equivalent to one gallon of gasoline

Ecological destruction
Ecological Destruction

  • Pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics into ground, water, air…and food

  • Mounds of manure + urine at feedlots & dairies; and animal flatulence…

  • Pollution, and added pollution, to the air, waterways, and land from all the extra needs and inefficiency

  • Rainforests destroyed for land to graze cattle, especially in third world countries; beef is exported to developed countries

    • So even less ability for plant kingdom to absorb CO2

Ecological destruction1
Ecological Destruction


  • Ave dairy cow produces how many pounds of wet manure per day ?

Ecological destruction2
Ecological Destruction

  • Ave dairy cow produces how many pounds of wet manure per day ?

    120 pounds (per day!)

  • Humans produce only several pounds per day

A global dietary imperative
A Global Dietary Imperative

  • “The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future - deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute

  • “eating meat is like driving a huge SUV... a vegetarian diet is like driving a hybrid car, and... a vegan diet is like riding a bicycle” (unk)


  • An all-plant-based diet offers powerful solutions:

    • Efficiency of global and local resources

    • Reducing greenhouse gases

    • Minimizing land / water / air pollution

    • Overall planetary health / sustainability

    • Lesser dependence on foreign oil, foreign economic markets, and related factors

    • Enormous cost savings for the near- and long-term

    • Alleviating global hunger

    • Reducing effects on non-human animals

    • Personal and public health / well-being; Fostering peace, sharing, and responsibility; Minimization of harm, respect for all life; Reconnecting with the spiritual and religious tenets

      GO VEGAN !

Helpful resources
Helpful Resources

Helpful resources1
Helpful Resources

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

    • http://www.ipcc.ch/

  • UN FAO

    • http://www.fao.org

  • US EPA

    • http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/index.html