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A Global Dietary Imperative to Global Warming

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  1. A Global Dietary Imperative to Global Warming Saurabh F. Dalal Vegetarian Society of DC vsdc@vsdc.org 202-362-VEGY

  2. Outline • Main Idea • Background on Global Warming • Animal Agriculture and Its Impacts • Examples of Inefficiency • Conclusion • Resources

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Greenhouse Effect

  6. 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

  7. Global Temperatures

  8. IPCC • 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. Enormous Resource Inefficiency TELLING EXAMPLE • How many pounds of Grain are used to make 1 pound of beef ?

  20. 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

  21. Enormous Resource Inefficiency TELLING EXAMPLE • How many gallons of Water are used to make 1 pound of beef ?

  22. 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

  23. Enormous Resource Inefficiency TELLING EXAMPLE • How many calories of fossil fuel are spent to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef ?

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. Ecological Destruction TELLING EXAMPLE • Ave dairy cow produces how many pounds of wet manure per day ?

  27. 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

  28. 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)

  29. Conclusion • 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 !

  30. 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

  31. 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