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A Global Dietary Imperative to Global Warming . Saurabh F. Dalal Vegetarian Society of DC vsdc@vsdc.org 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



  • 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


helpful resources
Helpful Resources
  • Vegetarian Society of DC
    • www.vsdc.org * (vsdc@vsdc.org) * 202-362-VEGY
  • Vegetarian Union of North America / International Vegetarian Union
    • www.ivu.org * (vuna@ivu.org)
    • Councilors of VUNA, esp Prof. Richard Schwartz
  • FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement)
    • www.farmusa.org * info@farmusa.org
  • EarthSave International
    • www.earthsave.org * information@earthsave.org
  • Worldwatch Institute
    • www.worldwatch.org * worldwatch@worldwatch.org
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