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Pitch

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


Description

Summary

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


Category of the action

Reducing consumption


What actions do you propose?

This year we have reached a  dangerous milestone of 400 ppm of greenhouse gases in atmosphere. The scientific consensus advises that we must keep GHG at350 ppm to maintain a stable Earth ecosystem or we may reach tipping points which will propel runaway climate change and place us in a future where we are constantly in defense of extreme weather.  If we continue on our current trajectory we will be placing into jeopardy many of the  Earths species including our own. .

Most actions for mitigating climate change and slowing global warming temperatures have relied on reducing CO2 emissions.   CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years,  so even if we went completely CO2 neutral today, there would still be the damaging remains of the past use of CO2 lingering in the atmosphere preventing us from stopping the most damaging effects of Climate Change. We need a near- term solution which will reduce short-lived warming gases to buy us the time to take the long term solution of reducing CO2. Scientists estimate that short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs) account for 30 to 40 percent of the human-induced warming to date. Yet as SLCFs remain in the atmosphere for periods of only a few days to a few decades, their warming effect is short-lived, and reducing their emissions would result in more immediate benefits, including limiting climate impacts already underway.

Livestock production is a  significant contributor to all of the short term climate pollutants including:  Black Carbon, Methane and Ground Level Ozone.

 

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 source of Methane is livestock.

Enteric Fermentation and Manure Management are both related to livestock production making livestock production the largest source of methane in US.

Black carbon  is 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 and 30% of Arctic melting.  However, they remain in the atmosphere from only one to four weeks . The greatest scource of Black carbon is anthropogenic open fire set to clear forest and land for pasture and crop growth for animal feed. Deforestation  for livestock production has accounted for over 50% of Brazil’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions, ranking it as the world’s third largest emitter of GHGs, after China and the US.

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.  It is best controlled by reducing Methane

Consensus is developing among scientists and policy makers that reducing the short lived climate pollutants (SLCP's) is our best option for a near term cooling. They are coming to the realization that an international agreement may not come soon enough or be strong enough to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Globally the greatest contributorto the short lived climate pollutants is livestock production with China and the US the largest meat consumers.


Who will take these actions?

We must reduce meat consumption globally. But, there is growing corporate influence of livestock production which necessitates a political solution and we need to bring environmental groups and political entities who are aware of the challenge together to fight against monopoly control of our global livestock production. I am referring to the proposed aquisition of Smithfield,  a US company, and largest global pork producer to Shuanghui International, China's largest meat processing company.  The purpose of the sale is to produce pork in US for export to China. There may be a chance to stop the sale as it may violate some US trade laws. Food & Water Watch has begun a campaign to pressure US congress to hold hearings to investigate the impact of foreign ownership of American food companies and there are US members of congress who have spoken out against the sale. We can all join in this action by signing  this petition from Food & Water Watch.

As understanding grows that reducing short lived climate pollutants(SLCP's) is our best option to mitigate the worse effects of climate change, the increasing emissions of SLCP's from increases in livestock production jeopardize the chance we have of slowing climate change in the near term.

As meat consumption in US and EU has decreased consumption  has exploded in China. The country’s 1.35 billion residents now consume about a quarter of all meat produced globally.

The Meatless Monday team has recently focused their attention on making inroads into China, We must support and join in this action along with building on the successful Meatless Monday campaign in US and the Meat Free Monday EU campaign. We can all help to spread the Meatless Monday campaign to our campuses, communities, workplace and even our favorite restaurants. Click here to become part of the solution to reducing meat consumption and mitigating climate change..


Where will these actions be taken?

Globally with emphasis on high meat consumption nations including:US, EU and China


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?


What are other key benefits?

A new study in  Nature Climate Change has found that reduction of the short lived climate pollutants could slow the annual rate of sea level rise by up to 50 %. It can decrease the SLR rate by 24-50% and reduce the cumulative SLR by 22-42% by 2100. This study clearly illustrates that society can significantly reduce the threat to coastal communities if it moves quickly on a handful of pollutants. 

A key benefit is improved health especially in nations with high chronic disease including: diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

A vegetarian diet is a solution to world hunger as Frances Moore Lappe wrote in Diet for a Small Planet. We feed half the world's grain to livestock returning only a fraction in meat while millions starve

Frances Lappe: producing one pound of steak uses 2,500 gallons of water. Livestock production, including water fed to US crops fed to livestock abroad , account for half of all water consumed in the US.


What are the proposal’s costs?

There is no cost to this proposal. In fact a vegetarian diet could cut Climate Change  mitigation costs by 70%.  An area the size of Russia and Canada combined could be freed from use as pasture or cropland used to grow animal feed, if people switched from current levels of meat consumption common in Europe and the United States to a diet based on plant-based protein.

Pastures would be allowed to regrow as forests creating a natural carbon sink to absorb legacy emissions of CO2 which otherwise would remain in atmosphere for hundreds of years.


Time line

Fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, especially methane and black carbon, has the potential to slow down the warming expected by 2050 by as much as 0.5 Celsius degrees


Related proposals

This proposal builds on the work of the 2011 proposal:"The Planet or Your Plate: Mitigate climate change by going meatless"

 


References

References included in text body