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Mitigate climate change by a rapid reduction of the short lived warming gases by advocating for less meat consumption globally



To mitigate climate change by proposing reduced meat consumption globally in order to bring a rapid reduction of the short lived warming gases including: Black Carbon(soot), Methane and Ground Level Ozone.  This can be achieved by education through the already successful Meatless Monday, Meatfree Monday, Brighter Green and other global organizations.  This proposal requires no financing and no government consensus.  It requires only public education which can be achieved through non-profit entities. 


beach babe in fl, environmental activist and blogger, founder Meatless Advocates, Daily Kos

Nancy A. Heitzeg,  Professor of Sociology, St Catherine University

Gerard Wedderburn Bisshop, advisor,  senior scientist , World Preservation Foundation




Most actions for mitigating climate change and slowing global warming temperatures have relied on reducing C02 emissions.   C02 emissions remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years,  so even if we went completely C02 neutral today, there would still be the damaging remains of the past use of C02 lingering in the atmosphere preventing us from stopping the most damaging effects of Climate Change. We need a short term solution which will reduce short-lived warming gases to buy us the time to take the long term solution of reducing C02.   Livestock production is a significate contributor to all of the short term climate forcers including:  Black Carbon, Methane and Ground Level Ozone.[1]   

Shorter- lived Climate Forcers   

The shorter-lived climate forcers addressed here are:  

Methane, with a warming potential 72 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20 year time frame, having a half-life of only 7 years.  The greatest scource of Methane is livestock

Black carbon , an intense heating agent in the air and particularly when on ice and snow.  Black carbon emissions are responsible for as much as 40% of the net global warming   However, they remain in the atmosphere from only one to four weeks . Greatest scource of Black carbon is antropologiic open fire set to clear forest and land for pasture and crop growth for animal feed.

Ground level ozone is another substantial greenhouse gas with an estimated warming impact equal to about 20 percent of that of carbon dioxide . It stays in the atmosphere for approximately 20 days, is a contributor to smog and is a health concern.  Best controlled by reducing Methane

We breed 68 billion animals each year (2009 data), and that whereas humanity consumes just 12% of global appropriated net primary production (NPP), livestock consume 58% of NPP.  Reducing meat consumption is indeed a natural and humane population control.

We devote a quarter of the global land surface to livestock production, we feed them 45% of the world’s grain, while they provide just 17% of human energy intake (UNFAO, 2011).

The FAO of the United Nations released it's seminal study Livestock's Long Shadow in 2006 [2]  which states that 18% of antropologic greenhouse gases are due to livestock production.   To augment that study the FAO recently released their findings regarding dairy production which they attribute to 4% of antropologic GHG emissions. [3] .   Environmental Working Group  has also released it's recent study which accesses the environmental footprint of 20 types of meat, fish, dairy and plant protein [4].  

New analysis from World Watch Institude shows that the impact of raising livestock and poultry is much greater than previously thought and actually amounts to approximately 51% of antropologic greenhouse gas emissions.  They add the emissions generated from livestock respirations , overlooked land use, methane and updated data for their study. [5]

Deforestation in the tropics accounts for nearly 20 per cent of carbon emissions due to human activities [6]    Large swaths of the Brazilian Amazon are being bulldozed and burned to accommodate expanding cattle ranches. Deforestation, which is dismembering the Earth’s functional heart and lungs, is largely resulting from cattle ranching driven by economic incentives and demand for Brazilian beef, according to the Center for International Forestry Research.

"Probably 80 to 90 percent of all cleared land in the region (the Brazilian Amazon) is attributable to some form of pasture or ranching," said Robert Walker, a geography professor at Michigan State University and an expert on land-use change in the Brazilian Amazon.  [7]      The majority of beef raised in Brazil is exported to Europe.   But, the US has recently overtaken Brazil as the No. 1 beef exporter  [8]   

The costs of mitigating climate change could be reduced by as much as 70% by stopping the culling of forests for the purpose of gaining land for livestock pasture and growth of livestock feed.  [9] 

The weight of evidence is now so strong regarding livestock production and it's considerable environmental impact and immense contribution to greenhouse emissions that the necessity of a major shift in approach was underlined by the UNEP report Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production which states: "A substantial reduction of [climate/environmental] impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products" (UNEP. 2010 p82) 

I have been working to promote this solution for over three years through blogging hosted by Daily Kos and supported by Meatless Monday[10]   It has been a phenomenal success with 50% recognition and 18% participation nationally  [11] .    There are already entire  countries, cities and school systems promoting reduced meat consumption.  The news that global meat sales have dropped as education has increased shows the enormous portential of grassroots education. [12] 


 I propose a rapid acceleration of education through the existing organizations with emphasis on larger institutions and with additional emphasis on the growing economies of China and India through work with Brighter Green [13], China Dialogue  [14] and other groups with the goal of transforming public policy .     Particular emphasis on China  is necessary because as their economy and middle class have grown their population is showing an increased appetite for US factory farm produced pork. [15]  The immense volume of livestock product already produced in the US is unsustainable and can  only occur due to the Earth killing and health killing practices of our factory farm system.  A factory farm system which is responsible for extreme pollution of US rivers and streams  [16] and which has the been the contributing factor in the development of antibiotic resistance superbugs due to the necessity of giving antibiotics in feed to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick due to extremely close confinment .  [17]   Indeed, 70% of antibiotics in US are given to healthy animals.  Brighter Green recently sent it's Executive Director, Mia McDonald to China to discuss the dangers of adopting a meat intensive western diet.

Domestically, we are needing to lobby for influence of the US 2012 Farm Bill,  to try to reduce US government subsidies for corn and soy which contribute to the Factory Farm livestock culture in US. That can be done by working with Food and Water Watch [18]  and in citizen lobbying of the members of the  US Senate Agriculture Committee. [19]    There is successful historical precedent in this type of effort as The Meatless Monday movement was intiated in World War I by the US Food Administration to urge families to reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort.    The Meatless Monday campaign returned in World War II and beyond, when Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman used rationing to help feed war-ravaged Europe.  Climate Change is no less a crisis.

This can be achieved.  When I first started working to educate there was initial resistance but as information about the severity of the effects of climate change are starting to resonant people are looking for solutions.  This requires participation on an individual level to influence the market to reduce production. 

The benefits are enormous including improved public health and challenge of feeding projected 9 billion in population growth  in addition to mitigation of climate change.

Plant Based Diets A Solution To Public Health Crisis (pdf) [20]

Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion [21]

Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, World Preservation Foundation Senior Scientist, and advisor for this proposal has sent this video and his paper (which has been submitted to the International Journal of Climate Change) which puts forward the case for how, with the devastating effects of climate change being felt ever-more quickly and with increasing intensity, the importance of embracing fast-acting solutions to mitigate climate change has increased dramatically. link in references below [22]

Text for video here (pdf): [23]

link for paper presented to International Journal of Climate Change

 World Preservation Foundation [24] 
























[22]  video

[23]  video text