How Meat Contributes to Global Warming

פורסם: 6 בדצמ׳ 2013, 9:36 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 20 במאי 2020, 7:43 ]

Producing beef for the table has a surprising environmental cost: it releases prodigious amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases

By Nathan Fiala ,4/2/2009

Most of us are aware that our cars, our coal-generated electric power and even our cement factories adversely affect the environment. Until recently, however, the foods we eat had gotten a pass in the discussion. Yet according to a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), our diets and, specifically, the meat in them cause more greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and the like to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry. (Greenhouse gases trap solar energy, thereby warming the earth's surface. Because gases vary in greenhouse potency, every greenhouse gas is usually expressed as an amount of CO2 with the same global-warming potential.)

The FAO report found that current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of "CO2-equivalent" greenhouse gases the world produces every year. It turns out that producing half a pound of hamburger for someone's lunch a patty of meat the size of two decks of cards releases as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as driving a 3,000-pound car nearly 10 miles.

  • Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57.
  • Beef consumption is rising rapidly, both as population increases and as people eat more meat.
  • Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driven more than 1,800 miles.
press the images to enlarge.

Burgers or Tofu?

Annual beef consumption per capita varies from 120 pounds in Argentina and 92 pounds in the U.S. to only a pound in the small eastern European country of Moldova; the average is about 22 pounds per person per year. The colors of the countries and the distortions of their usual shapes reflect the amount by which beef consumption per capita varies from the world average. World beef consumption per capita is growing, particularly in Asia, because of economic development: as peo­ple earn higher incomes, they purchase foods they find more desirable.  [Link to this slide]

U.N. FAO, 2003

Eating and Driving: An Atmospheric Comparison

The greenhouse gas emissions from producing various foods can be appreciated by comparing them with the emissions from a gasoline-powered passenger car that gets 27 miles per gallon. The estimated emissions from food production incorporate the assumption that 1,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare per year (about 2,700 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre per year) would have been absorbed by forests or other vegetation if the land had not been cleared for annual food crops or fodder. Greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, for instance—trap solar energy and warm the earth’s surface. Quantities of greenhouse gases are often expressed as the amount of CO2 that would have the same global-warming potential: their CO2 equivalent. [Link to this slide]

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Transportation Energy Data Book, U.S. Department of Energy, 2008; Seattle Food System Enhancement Project: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Study; Subak and Fiala references in "More to Explore"

The High (Greenhouse Gas) Cost of Meat

Worldwide meat production (beef, chicken and pork) emits more atmospheric greenhouse gases than do all forms of global transportation or industrial processes. On the basis of data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research, the author estimates that current levels of meat production add nearly 6.5 billion tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases every year to the atmosphere: some 18 percent of the worldwide annual production of 36 billion tons. Only energy production generates more greenhouse gases than does raising livestock for food.  [Link to this slide]

U.N. FAO, 2006

A Growing Appetite

World beef production is increasing at a rate of about 1 percent a year, in part because of population growth but also because of greater per capita demand in many countries. Economic analysis shows that if all beef were produced under the economically efficient feedlot, or CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation), system—which generates fewer greenhouse emissions than many other common husbandry systems do—beef production by 2030 would still release 1.3 billion tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases. If current projections of beef consumption are correct, even under the feedlot production system the buildup of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases could amount to 26 billion tons in the next 21 years. [Link to this slide]

U.N. FAO; U.S. Census Bureau

Prime Cuts: How Beef Production Leads to Greenhouse Gases

The largest fraction of the greenhouse effect from beef production comes from the loss of CO2-absorbing trees, grasses and other year-round plant cover on land where the feed crops are grown and harvested. Second most important is the methane given off by animal waste and by the animals themselves as they digest their food. This analysis of the U.S. feedlot beef production system was done by ecological economist Susan Subak, then at the University of East Anglia in England. [Link to this slide]

כתבות קשורות:
דו"ח: תעשיות המזון מן החי אחראיות למחצית מפליטות גזי החממה
דו"ח האו"ם: פגיעת משקי-חי בסביבה
הממשלות מגיבות על הנזק האקלימי שגורמות תעשיות בע"ח
סטייק = 4,000 ליטר מים
המבורגרים הם כמו "האמר" של ענף המזון
ביס מסוכן: מזהמים את העולם בשביל סטייק
אוכלים שרימפס? אתם מזיקים לסביבה
פנייה לשטייניץ: אל תוזיל את הבשר
האם התיאבון שלנו לבשר הורס את כדור הארץ?
מהפכה מקדונלד'ס? אין באמת הבדל בין עוף לבקר
ב-40 שנה: מספר חיות המשק בעולם גדל כמעט פי שלושה
אחרינו המבול? פרק ראשון: "סיר הבשר וכוס החלב"
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תופעת הצמחונות כובשת את הארץ
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