The planet is headed for an 80 per cent in­crease in green­house gas emis­sions from agri­cul­ture if global di­etary trends con­tinue to go unchecked

NOW Magazine - - NEWS FRONT - By ZACH RUITER [email protected]­ | @now­toronto

Re­for­est­ing the planet’s pas­ture lands has the po­ten­tial to re­duce the car­bon in our at­mos­phere to pre-in­dus­trial lev­els.

Awildly sim­ple path to halt­ing eco­log­i­cal col­lapse is right in front of our mouths. But like the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s view of pipe­line ex­pan­sion schemes as “a way to fi­nance the fu­ture green econ­omy,” its agri­cul­ture pol­icy ig­nores “the ad­van­tage of cut­ting out meat,” says Ca­te­rina Lind­man of the Cit­i­zens’ Cli­mate Lobby.


En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna says “Green­house gas emis­sions from the agri­cul­ture sec­tor ac­count for about 10 per cent of Canada’s emis­sions” and that “tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions, be­havioural changes and sus­tain­able land man­age­ment prac­tices could in­crease ef­fi­ciency and re­duce emis­sions from crop and live­stock sys­tems.”

But ac­cord­ing to Anna Pip­pus, di­rec­tor of farmed an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy at An­i­mal Jus­tice, “The only way to achieve our in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change obli­ga­tions is to farm, con­sume and ex­port far fewer an­i­mals.


While re­for­esta­tion is the only proven (and cost-ef­fec­tive) way to suck car­bon out of the air, we con­tinue to clear-cut to make space for an­i­mal agri­cul­ture, which hogs up­wards of 45 per cent of land sur­face cur­rently in use.

Cli­mate sci­en­tists are now imag­in­ing what that would look like in re­verse.

Ox­ford pro­fes­sor Joseph Poore, speak­ing to the Guardian UK on the re­lease of a re­cent study in the jour­nal Sci­ence, found that with­out an­i­mal agri­cul­ture, global farm­land could be re­duced by more than 75 per cent.

The anal­y­sis shows that meat and dairy pro­vide just 18 per cent of global caloric in­take but oc­cupy 83 per cent of farm­land. That’s be­cause in­stead of feed­ing plants to peo­ple, peo­ple feed plants to an­i­mals and those an­i­mals are then killed to feed peo­ple.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of even the “low­es­t­im­pact an­i­mal prod­ucts typ­i­cally ex­ceed those of veg­etable sub­sti­tutes, pro­vid­ing new ev­i­dence for the im­por­tance of di­etary change.”

Univer­sity of Illi­nois pro­fes­sor of At­mo­spheric Sciences Atul Jain, a con­trib­u­tor to the UN In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, says that re­for­est­ing about half the planet’s grass­lands and pas­ture lands has the po­ten­tial to re­duce car­bon in our at­mos­phere to pre-in­dus­trial lev­els.

“There are huge chal­lenges to putting pre­cise num­bers to the car­bon se­ques­tra­tion po­ten­tial of lands de­voted to an­i­mal agri­cul­ture,” says Tony Weis, au­thor of The Eco­log­i­cal Hoof­print: The Global Bur­den Of In­dus­trial Live­stock.

But “Stress­ing the mag­ni­tude of live­stock’s com­mand of land glob­ally, and the fact that these are sites of both GHG emis­sions and po­ten­tially in­creased se­ques­tra­tion, can make the case com­pelling enough.”


The jour­nal Na­ture warns that if global di­etary trends go unchecked there will be an es­ti­mated 80 per cent in­crease in emis­sions from the agri­cul­ture sec­tor by 2050. In 2006 the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture or­ga­ni­za­tion’s re­port, Live­stock’s Long Shadow, es­ti­mated that an­i­mal agri­cul­ture con­trib­utes 18 per cent of global green­house gas emis­sions, which is al­ready greater than all forms of trans­porta­tion com­bined.

In 2009 two World Bank en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vi­sors wrote an anal­y­sis for World­watch In­sti­tute tak­ing is­sue with the UN study. Their re­port es­ti­mated that an­i­mal agri­cul­ture ac­counted for some 51 per cent of global green­house gas emis­sions.

Writ­ing in the New York Times, Robert Good­land, co-au­thor of the World­watch anal­y­sis, at­trib­uted the in­crease to “growth in live­stock pro­duc­tion (now more than 60 bil­lion land an­i­mals per year), ac­com­pa­nied by largescale de­for­esta­tion and for­est burn­ing, [which] have caused a dra­matic de­cline in the earth’s pho­to­syn­thetic ca­pac­ity.”


The an­i­mal agri­cul­ture in­dus­try it­self is un­der threat from the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

In the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Florence in Septem­ber, 3.4 mil­lion chick­ens and 5,500 pigs were con­firmed killed by flood­ing in North Carolina and many of the state’s 4,000 an­i­mal ex­cre­ment la­goons dis­charged a toxic fe­cal soup into the en­vi­ron­ment.

Mean­while, wide­spread droughts due to a warm­ing Earth dec­i­mated crops across Eu­rope this past sum­mer and forced many farm­ers to cull their herds so re­main­ing an­i­mals wouldn’t starve.

Cana­dian farm­ers know the feel­ing. In Au­gust, the Globe and Mail re­ported that drought con­di­tions in West­ern Canada are “be­com­ing an agri­cul­tural night­mare for farm­ers.”

“The right word is ‘pa­thetic,’” Tom Te­ichroeb, pres­i­dent of the Man­i­toba Beef Pro­duc­ers, told the Globe. “There are folks up there who are talk­ing about liq­ui­dat­ing, sim­ply be­cause there is no feed avail­able to them.”


Veg­e­tar­i­ans and ve­g­ans now make up al­most 10 per cent of the Cana­dian pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to a study by Dal­housie Univer­sity.

Syl­vain Charlebois, a pro­fes­sor of food dis­tri­bu­tion and pol­icy at Dal­housie, told CTV News re­cently that the most “dis­turb­ing fact” for meat pro­duc­ers is that the ma­jor­ity of Cana­dian veg­e­tar­i­ans and ve­g­ans are un­der the age of 35.

Ac­cord­ing to Lind­man, “Cit­i­zens’ Cli­mate Lobby doesn’t lobby for ve­gan di­ets but a lot of us are ve­g­ans be­cause we are cli­mate ac­tivists and this is some­thing we need to do.”

Is it a co­in­ci­dence that the most toxic in­dus­try on earth – one that in­flicts vi­o­lence and suf­fer­ing on an­i­mals – is threat­en­ing to kill us all?

Even though the num­bers dif­fer on ex­actly how much an­i­mal agri­cul­ture is to blame for global green­house gasses, there is lit­tle doubt the in­dus­try it­self is un­der threat – the feds have an­nounced a $3 bil­lion Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural Part­ner­ship that, ac­cord­ing to McKenna, “will help mit­i­gate agri­cul­tural green­house gas emis­sions, pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment and adapt to cli­mate change by en­hanc­ing sus­tain­able growth, while in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion.”

Global farm­land could be re­duced by more than 75 per cent with­out an­i­mal agri­cul­ture.

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