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As you may or may not know, our mother Earth is experiencing a climate change that puts all the living beings and life on the planet in danger. The increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions that makes the air get trapped in the atmosphere and leads to high temperatures, frequent climatic natural calamities such as hurricanes, droughts, storms, rising sea levels, and many more. There is no doubt these disasters and the severe changes in the climates around the world are not going anywhere any time soon unless we as residents of the planet take some measures. 

Climate change severely affects agriculture of both kinds (farming and livestock) and there is actually a cause and effect relation between them. Agricultural practices also have their own share of negative effects on the environment. 

What we have learned for a long time now is that the main cause of Green House Gasess is fossil fuels namely energy, oil, and gas sector. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that 29 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food production together with land-use, nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizers and soil, transportation activities, and land clearing. According to an official report represented by the FAO (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization), 18 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. 

However, a study done by two Word Bank environmental advisers at the WorldWatch Institute claims that it is indeed the animal agriculture that accounts for the largest amount of GHG. Combining all the underestimated practices and activities included in the livestock and caused by it this figure goes up to 51 percent. Some of those are land use and deforestation as a result of heavy grazing, uncounted respiration of billions of animals, processing, and the transportation of the byproducts which include meat and dairy. Worldwide 26 percent of the land is used as grazing areas and 33 percent is allocated for growing feed for the animals and every year more forest and rainforest territories are being converted into grazing fields. (World Watch, 2009). Taking into account that the forests are our main source of oxygen because of their photosynthesis ability, the balance between the CO2 emissions of animals and O2 produced by plants is disrupted. Thus, the respiration of the animals significantly contributes to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per year (13.7 percent according to the study) even though it is not being included as a source in the Kyoto Protocol. (World Watch, 2009). 

And yet, this is not all of it. There are other issues related to animal agriculture that does not only give rise to the climate change but affects the environment generally by overfishing, ocean dead zones, deforestation, intensive freshwater depletion, extinction of species, pollution, and more. In turn, climate change affects agriculture with extreme weather events, varying rainfall patterns, and changes in the seasons. These all affect the production, health of the animals, and quality of the products. 

One main action to combat climate change needs to be reducing the reliance on meat and dairy products because the more people consume it, the more is being produced to meet the demands. Eating more plant-based, changing our eating habits to eat more consciously can help to alleviate climate change. 

Now you may ask, what happens when the demand for the plants increases if more and more people go vegetarian and vegan? How can agriculture cope with it then? Instead of clearing land to grow feed for the animals and for grazing, most of these territories could be used for human needs and reduce the number of toxic gases released into the atmosphere and additionally saving lives of animals. Of course, these all are not going to happen immediately even though we do not have much time, but we should focus on what stands at the heart of the issues we face today. 

For more detailed information on agriculture and climate change visit here: https://templatelab.com/livestock-and-climate-change/ 

References:

  1. World Watch, November\December 2009: Livestock and Climate Change. What if the key actors in climate change are cows, pigs and chickens? https://templatelab.com/livestock-and-climate-change/ 
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, 2006:  Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options., Rome http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm
  3. IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr/
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