The meat industry is warming the climate


Hunter Berube

Suffolk Climate Watch graphic

Farmers have illegally burned forests in order to turn them into pastures for their cows. This is done to keep up with the meat industry, but it largely factors into a warming climate, according to The New York Times.

A rising demand in meat can mean a negative outcome for biodiversity, which is necessary for the survival of the ecosystem, according to Vox.

Reducing the use of fossil fuels is key in order to reduce emissions; however, there’s more that can be done. According to Science, if greenhouse gases were no longer pumped into the atmosphere, global temperatures could increase by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, just from shifts in the global food system.

Not only does the food industry contribute to climate change, but it’s also a large contributor to public health problems, according to Food Navigator. Consumer goods company Unilever reports that 2 billion people across the world are overweight and that a plant-based diet can help individuals and the environment.

More than 20% of fossil fuel emissions are produced by the food industry, since emissions are immersed in food supply, including deforestation and raising cattle. According to VOX, both of these processes release nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating more fossil fuels.

When temperatures increase, this can cause extreme events such as flooding, heat waves and more. According to Plant Based News, it’s necessary to change how we produce food and how much is wasted in order to stay within the guidelines of the Paris Agreement, an agreement which aims to reduce fossil fuels and mitigate climate change.

“The best time would have been 20 years ago, but the second best time to start talking about food is now,” said Michael Clark, an Oxford University researcher, told Vox.

Research from the Committee on Climate Change suggests that switching to a plant-based diet could reduce the average person’s carbon footprint by 35%. 

There are other ways to achieve a reduction in food emissions, but only if they are utilized quickly, according to Plant Based News. Some of these other options include raising crop yields and reducing food loss.

However, according to Vox, the most important shift is to follow a plant-based diet.