Fighting Global Warming With Veganism

Jamie in Chile

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I realize we've covered this before, but I am just trying to expand on previous discussions with a little extra.

According to George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian a few days ago, a paper in Nature says that the carbon footprint of an average northern European diet is 9 tonnes of CO2e a year if we include the carbon opportunity cost: meaning the lost opportunity for carbon sequestration of the land that would be used. This also means that the saving of a person eating an average amount of meat going vegan (usually considered to be about 2 tonnes CO2e) is about tripled to about a 6 tonnes CO2e saving.

It's a somewhat dubious argument, because who's to say that all the land really would be used for carbon sequestration and nature if we all went vegan? Transitioning to veganism may also enable more population growth in the future rather than save carbon. So I suspect the true savings would be lower. Even so, very interesting article.

The Nature article admits that they ignored the albedo effect in spite of the fact that it is "substantial", which possibly makes the 6 tonnes saving too high.

Animal agriculture is usually thought to account for around 15%-20% of global warming. However, if the land use change as a result were to all be changed to natural landscapes or managed to sequester carbon, the effective saving of going vegan might be more like 40%-50%. If part of the saved land were used for such purpose, but not all (which might be realistic) the effective saving might be more like 25%-35% of your total carbon footprint by going vegan. (So the 6 tonnes saving I mentioned above might be more like 3 - 5.)

As we've discussed in the past, going vegan has a positive effect on many environmental issues, not just global warming.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/08/ipcc-land-climate-report-carbon-cost-meat-dairy

Nature paper cited in Monbiot article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0757-z

Related thread: https://www.veganforum.org/threads/going-vegan-is-the-single-most-effective-thing-an-individual-can-do-to-reduce-climate-change.3839/
 
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