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A Global Dietary Imperative

to Global Warming

Saurabh F. Dalal
Vegetarian Society of DC

• Main Idea
• Background on Global Warming
• Animal Agriculture and Its Impacts
• Examples of Inefficiency
• Conclusion
• Resources
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
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
Greenhouse Effect
Greenhouse Gases &

• 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
Global Temperatures

• Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

• 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
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
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
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
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
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
• 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
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
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
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
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
• ~ 55 billion animals are reared worldwide to be killed and eaten
• ~ 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
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
Enormous Resource

• How many pounds of Grain are

used to make 1 pound of beef ?
Enormous Resource

• How many pounds of Grain are

used to make 1 pound of beef ?

12-16 pounds

• 8 loaves of bread
• 24 plates of spaghetti
Enormous Resource

• How many gallons of Water are

used to make 1 pound of beef ?
Enormous Resource

• 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
Enormous Resource

• How many calories of fossil fuel

are spent to produce 1 calorie of
protein from beef ?
Enormous Resource

• 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
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
Ecological Destruction

• Ave dairy cow produces how

many pounds of wet manure per
day ?
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

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)
 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
Helpful Resources
• Vegetarian Society of DC
– * ( * 202-362-VEGY
• Vegetarian Union of North America /
International Vegetarian Union
– * (
– Councilors of VUNA, esp Prof. Richard Schwartz
• FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement)
– *
• EarthSave International
– *
• Worldwatch Institute
– *
Helpful Resources
• Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change