Improve your health and double your climate dividend by eating less mammalian meat

The amount of land used around our planet for raising and growing feed for cattle and other mammals so humans can eat ‘meat’ is more than used by all of our other agricultural requirements altogether. Meat-eating produces greenhouse-gases. The digestive processes of ruminant cattle release large amounts of methane. Even more importantly, overgrazing damages and impoverishes soils, substantially reducing their capacity to store carbon – thus releasing large amounts of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere contributing to global warming.

Carbon Brief explains how our meat-eating produces greenhouse-gases making the climate emergency worse.

Animal-based foods have higher carbon and land footprints than their plant-based alternatives, and are most commonly consumed in high-income countries. The study, published in Nature Food, investigates how the global food system would change if 54 high-income countries were to shift to a more plant-based diet.

High-income countries could cut their agricultural emissions by almost two-thirds through dietary change, the authors find. They add that moving away from animal-based foods could free up an area of land larger than the entire European Union.

If this land were all allowed to revert to its natural state, it would capture almost 100bn tonnes of carbon – equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions – the authors note. They add that this level of carbon capture “could potentially fulfill high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”.

Ayesha Tandon
Carbon Brief,
10.01.2022 | 4:00pm
Food and farmingRich nations could see ‘double climate dividend’ by switching to plant-based foods

As a biologist, I know that people eat a lot more meat than is actually healthy for them. We all need certain amino acids found in animal protein for a healthy diet, but there are many sources that can be developed that are far less damaging to the environment than grazing cattle; e.g., poultry and farmed insects. The thought of eating the latter may be very off-putting to some Western cultures, but they were a staple source of protein for our remote ancestors and some cultures today still consider insects/arthropods to be delicacies (to say nothing of Westerner’s appetite for marine arthropods like rock lobsters, crabs, and the like.

In any event, given that our ‘business as usual’ meat-eating produces greenhouse-gases is condemning our species to likely extinction in a hothouse hell as a result from allowing global warming to run away. Changing our diets in a way that will allow the vast inventory of land currently used to support the meat industry to be repurposed and optimized for carbon capture and storage. It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that all cattle grazing and feeding has to be eliminated, but only that no more can be grown than are required as tools to help manage the land for optima sequestration.

Nevertheless, animal agriculture needs to shift from the exploitation to stewardship of the land. And, it is clear that this kind of shift in the Australian environment will not happen as long as it is under the control of a COALition puppet government giving its allegiance to multimillionaire special interests rather than the future survival of the citizens who voted them into office.

To have any hope that our families will have a safe future where they can survive, we must remove Captain Humbug (AKA Scotty from marketing) and his Liberal/National COALition and their fellow traveling puppets of the special interests. We need to do this by electing people who accept and understand that their first priority in government must be addressing the climate emergency to organize and support whatever needs to be done to stop and reverse the global warming process enough to allow humans and the biosphere in general to survive in a reasonably healthy state.

To help Australians do this, we have formulated our Vote Climate One Traffic Light Voting Guide to rank where we think every candidate stands on this critical issue. We don’t tell you who to vote for, but rather who should be placed towards the last to ensure that your preferences don’t end up helping to elect a special interest puppet.

Posted by William P. Hall

Some call me a 'climate scientist'. I'm not. What I am is an 'Earth systems generalist'. Born in 1939, I grew up with passionate interests in both science and engineering. I learned to read from my father's university textbooks in geology and paleontology, and dreamed of building nuclear powered starships. Living on a yacht in Southern California I grew up surrounded by (and often immersed in) marine and estuarine ecosystems while my father worked in the aerospace engineering industry. After studying university physics for three years, dyslexia with numbers convinced me to change my focus to biology. I completed university as an evolutionary biologist (PhD Harvard, 1973). My principal research project involved understanding how species' genetic systems regulated the evolution and speciation of North America's largest and most widespread lizard genus. Then for several years as an academic biologist I taught a range of university subjects as diverse as systematics, biogeography, cytogenetics, comparative anatomy and marine biology. In Australia, from 1980, I was involved in various activities around the emerging and rapidly evolving microcomputing technologies culminating in 2 years involvement in the computerization of the emerging Bank of Melbourne. In 1990 I joined a startup engineering company that had just won the contract to build a new generation of 10 frigates for Australia and New Zealand. In 2007 I retired from the head office of Tenix Defence, then Australia's largest defence engineering contractor, after a 17½ year career as a documentation and knowledge management systems analyst and designer. At Tenix I reported to the R&D manager under the GM Engineering, and worked closely with support and systems engineers on the ANZAC Ship Project to solve documentation and engineering change management issues that risked the project 100s of millions of dollars in cost and years of schedule overruns. All 10 ships had been delivered on time, on budget to happy customers against the fixed-price and fixed schedule contract. Before, during, and after these two main gigs I also did a lot of other things that contribute to my general understanding of complex dynamical systems involving multiple components with non-linear and sometimes chaotically interacting components; e.g., 'Earth systems'. Earth's Climate System is the global heat engine driven by the transport and conversions of energy between the incoming solar radiation striking the planet, and the infrared radiation of heat away from the planet to the cold dark universe. As Climate Sentinel News Editor, my task is to identify and understand quirks and problems in the operation of this complex heat engine that threaten human existence, and explain to our readers how they can help to solve some of the critical issues that are threatening their own existence.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.