There has been increasing reports in the news and across social media platforms of late, discussing the topic of climate change. This is all in response to the AR6 synthesis report released by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) which referred to our current situation as a “code red for humanity”. The report confirms what scientists have been telling us for years, that the increase in global temperatures is due to human influence.
In the past 50 years, the Earth’s surface temperature has increased faster that any other 50 year period in the past 2000 years. The AR6 report states that the targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement (1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels) are no longer achievable at the rate we are going. It highlights the insufficient efforts made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the past decade and encourages policy makers to take a more action to mitigate this catastrophe.
Let’s take a step back to high school. You’re sitting in your usual spot in the science classroom, of course this was years ago and your school didn’t have air conditioning so your sweltering, drifting in and out of concentration with one eye on the clock and the other on your teacher who is babbling on about the greenhouse effect. “When am I ever going to need this?” you thought to yourself… Well now is when you need it. If everyone can take a second to learn about the greenhouse effect, we can all work together to create a solution to the climate crises we are in.
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. When the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is absorbed, some is reflected back to space and the rest is reflected back towards the Earth’s surface and trapped as a result of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and some artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
The problem that we face is due to an increasing percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Human activity since the industrial revolution has interfered with natural cycles and has therefore created an imbalance of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The more of these greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere the more of the suns energy is trapped therefore resulting in global warming.
There is however, a natural resource that acts like a machine to absorb certain greenhouse gases out of the Earth’s atmosphere… it is a tree. What are we doing with these beautiful machines? Cutting them down to make space for agriculture or palm oil plantations.
The Agricultural Industry
The second largest emitter of human-made greenhouse gases, after fossil fuels, is animal agriculture. This industry is also a leading cause of deforestation, loss of biodiversity and air and water pollution.
Known facts about livestock agriculture:
- 70 billion animals are raised annually for human consumption.
- One third of the available land surface is devoted to growing livestock.
- 50% of Australian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from livestock agriculture.
- Approximately 16% of global freshwater is used to grow livestock.
- One third of grains grown are fed to livestock.
How does livestock emit greenhouse gases?
Knocking down rainforests to make space for livestock releases stored carbon from the soil and trees while reducing the ability of trees to absorb greenhouse gases from the Earth’s atmosphere. In order to grow crops used to feed livestock, fertilisers are created by burning fossil fuels consequently releasing greenhouse gases. Lastly, methane is released as a result of animal waste.
Eating A Plant Based Diet
If everyone in the world consumed a predominantly plant-based diet, approximately 5 billion football fields of land could be restored back to forest and 30% more food could be supplied to the planet’s growing population. This would result in an increase in biodiversity, land and water, and a decrease in pollution and the amount of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Changing the way humans consume food is a daunting challenge that relies wholly on each individual. Every dollar spent supports what you value. The underlying question is… what do you value?
Cameron, S. (2021). The Planet. Retrieved 17 August 2021, from https://omdfortheplanet.com/why-it-matters/planet
Climatenexus. Animal Agriculture’s Impact on Climate Change (p. 1). Climatenexus. Retrieved from https://climatenexus.org/climate-issues/food/animal-agricultures-impact-on-climate-change/
IPCC. (2021). Climate Change 2022. United Nations. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-cycle/
Wedderburn-Bishop G., Longmire A., Rickards L., “Neglected Transformational Responses: Implications of Excluding Short Lived Emissions and Near Term Projections in GHG Accounting”, The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume X (2015). http://ijc.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.185/prod.269