Vegetarians Impact the Earth

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Aside from the ethical arguments against the meat industry, there are important scientific facts available that champion vegetarianism.  Eating a vegetarian diet helps to eliminate the greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming. Methane Carbon dioxide is a much discussed greenhouse gas linked to global warming.  Here are some facts about another potent compound, methane.

The level of methane increase since the industrial revolution much exceeds the level of carbon dioxide increase in the environment. (1) In addition, a methane emission will have 25 times the impact on temperature of a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years. (2) According to statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, human sources produce 1.5 times as much methane as all the earth’s natural sources.  The number one source of methane in the U.S. is animal agriculture.  Methane from animal agriculture is generated in part from enteric fermentation, livestock manure and manure management.  “Lagoon” storage of untreated animal waste is also a primary source of water pollution in the U.S. (3)

Nitrous oxide
According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for up to 65% percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.  In addition, Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. (4) According to GoVeg.com, an advocate against climate change, “animal agriculture is the leading source of methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which—combined with carbon dioxide—causes the vast majority of global warming.”

Vegetarian agriculture versus animal agriculture
An interesting statement from the Sierra Club, quoting the president of the Earth Policy Institute, states, “a plant-based diet requires roughly one-fourth as much energy as a diet rich in red meat. Shifting from a diet rich in red meat to a plant-based diet cuts greenhouse gas emissions as much as shifting from a Suburban SUV to a Prius.” Cutting back on meat and dairy products is one of the most effective things an individual can do on a daily basis to cut greenhouse gases. The University of Chicago reports that going vegan is 50% more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (5) Calculate the carbon impact of meals.  The meal planner presents the challenge of, “making food choices that reduce emissions by 25% and (being) part of the climate solution.”

References:
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane
(3) http://www.earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
(4) http://www.goveg.com/environment-globalWarming.asp
(5) http://www.goveg.com/environment-globalWarming.asp

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