ARE FARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE RELATED?

Farming is a major contributor to climate change. Factory farming creates about 1/3 of greenhouse gas and more than 40% of methane. Worldwide, farm animals account for between 14.5% and 18% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

The effects of the climate change also has negative effects on farming.

The use of chemicals to helps plants grow, bug killers and animal wastes are the major causes of these effects. Overall, the relationship between farming and climate change is becoming more clear.

WHAT ARE ANIMAL AGRICULTURE EMISSIONS?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines harmful gases from agriculture as greenhouse gas from farm animals such as cows, farm soils, and rice growing. According to the COWSPIRACY “Animal farming is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases (these gases heat up the earth), more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.”

For instance:

  • Fertilizing soils, forest clearing, produce moving, and animal farming cause about 1/3 of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases including more than 40% of methane.
  • Worldwide, farm animals account for between 14.5% and 18% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. These harmful gases heat up the earth and are very dangerous.
  • Methane levels have doubled in less than 10 years after remaining flat since the 1990s.

HOW DOES FARMING CREATE GREENHOUSE GASES?

  • The clearing of forests and other natural habitats for agricultural expansion contributes to emissions by releasing carbon stored in vegetation and soil.
  • The use of fossil fuels in farming equipment and transportation, including transporting produce to markets.
  • The use of synthetic fertilizers requires energy to produce and emit nitrous oxide when used on fields.

Manure management and enteric fermentation (a natural digestive process in the stomachs of animals such as cows, sheep and goats) results in the release of methane.

HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT FOOD SECURITY?

  • Extreme weather-related disasters are increasing, which can damage crops and livestock. 
  • Leads to water scarcity and loss of fertile land, making it more difficult to grow crops.
  • Weather changes reduce the number of crops farmers can grow
  • Higher levels of CO2 reduce the nutritional value of crops (concentrations of protein, iron, and zinc are up to 17% lower).
  • CO2 can contaminate crops by changing the rate of photosynthesis, which can damage or kill crops. It can also affect the water-use efficiency of plants, which can lead to reduced crop yields, decreased quality, and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases.

CLIMATE CHANGE CONVERSATION

Is it time to stop the political games that rule food safety policy? Should politicians start focusing more on human health? Luckily, discussions about food safety reform are becoming more common.

CAN REDUCING MEAT CONSUMPTION HELP?

The production of meat, particularly beef, generates a significant amount of greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. In addition to the emissions from animal agriculture, the deforestation and land-use changes associated with raising livestock also contribute to the problem.

One way to lower our carbon footprint and reduce the impact of climate change is to reduce our consumption of meat. This can be done by choosing to eat less meat overall, or by choosing to eat meat from more sustainable sources, such as grass-fed beef or free-range chicken. These meats are produced using practices that have a lower environmental impact, such as reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and avoiding the use of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Consumers can eat “clean meat”, which is meat from a plant source.

MEAT CONSUMPTION – DEVELOPED VERSUS UNDERDEVELOPED COUNTRIES

Developing countries now eat about 1/3 of the meat. Also, they drink 1/4 of the milk produced worldwide. In fact, the amount of meat and dairy consumption in developing countries is increasing faster than in the developed countries.

• Meat is an important source of nutrition and worldwide demand for meat is growing. It has more than quadrupled over the past 50 years!
• Asia is the largest meat producer. They account for around 40-45 % of total meat production.
Meat consumption is highest across high-income countries. High-income countries consume nearly 80 kilograms per person in one year.
• Meat-eating patterns across Africa differ. Some African countries eat as little as 10 kilograms per person in one year.

WHAT STOPS US FROM REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS IN FARMING?

After scientists found a link between animal farming and global warming, media coverage increased, and the farming industry was criticized. However, there is resistance to changing current farming practices due to a number of factors, including the high costs of implementing sustainable practices, lack of understanding or awareness of the issue, and the influence of powerful lobbies in the agriculture industry. 

We need more education and new innovations that make it affordable for farms to operate in a more environmentally-friendly way.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

How can we reduce greenhouse gases from farming? Can we do so and still eat meat?

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