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  • Writer's pictureMeg

The Environmental Impact: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet” – Albert Einstein

The reason I even decided to start blogging about veganism, which definitely constitutes a form of social suicide, was after watching the documentary Cowspiracy. I knew consuming meat and dairy was taxing on the environment but I had been very naïve about the extent of the damage. I remember identifying with the producer, Kip Anderson, so much. He spoke about how after watching the pioneering climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, he had done all he could to lower his personal carbon dioxide emissions; composted, rode his bike everywhere, took short showers, donated to environmental groups, until he learnt something that changed the game entirely.

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The facts stated below are taken directly from Cowspiracy (see resources and references for original sources):

  • Livestock and their by-products account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions

  • Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame

  • Methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame

  • Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day

  • Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years

  • Emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050

  • Reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately

Holy Cow!

Those stats are difficult to digest. So, carbon dioxide, something I remember learning about and being terrified about in primary school, has been kept central in the climate change debate while methane and nitrous oxide are the green house gas emissions reeking significantly more havoc in our atmosphere. Kip Anderson talks about how Al Gore, the almost-American President and producer of An Inconvenient Truth, was his climate hero and even Al wasn’t talking about methane! Kip made it his personal mission to investigate this elephant in the room and found an inconvenient truth himself: the animal agriculture industry is aware of the devastation it inflicts on the environment. Their products, their commodities – the animals, like us, have a carbon, methane and nitrous oxide footprint which is not being accounted for in the climate conversation. This problem is only getting worse as the demand for meat and dairy increases around the globe. But it gets worse…

Why aren’t the public informed about this?

More disturbingly, why aren’t even the environmental groups telling the people supporting their initiatives that the simplest and most effective climate action they can do is go vegan? If you’re as cynical as me, the answer shouldn’t really surprise you: they’re paid not too. You will never see the impacts of animal agriculture cited on environmental organisations websites if they have been gaged by the animal agriculture industry.

This sounds very doom and gloom if you can’t see your own potential and opportunity for positive change. Three of my friends have recently gone vegan shortly after seeing the Cowspiracy documentary. I wish I could take the credit but all three are smart, educated, foodies that watched the film (before I had) and evidently decided their taste-buds weren’t worth the Earth. They all report vegan living to be very tasty thus far. Welcome to the club Katie, Leah and Elly; I have so enjoyed being part of your journeys.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources:


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