Climate Change


 By Sharon L. Wallenberg


“Eat less meat” was the recommendation of Rajendrak Pachsuri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and end note speaker of the United Nations Annual Department of Public Information Non Governmental Organizations Conference on Climate Change, held at the United Nations in New York. 


The United Nations Conference focused on the urgent challenge of global climate change, its causes from human activities, and our collective and individual responsibility in addressing its potentially devastating effects.


Recent findings have left no doubt that the warming of the climate is directly linked to human activity.  Warmer climate is caused by carbon dioxide and methane – greenhouse gases in the atmosphere resulting from transportation, energy, mechanized farming, and deforestation, among other causes.  Of all the causes, the livestock sector generates the most greenhouse gas emissions according to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report.


Global warming melts polar ice caps and mountain glaciers causing increases in sea levels that threaten costal areas and small island nations.  The tsunamis, hurricanes, earth-quakes, droughts, and floods have been scientifically linked to Greenhouse Gasses.


There is a deep injustice in climate change.  Rich countries grow richer while causing the problem.  The poorest countries are the most affected, and have the least responsibility for the causes.  Food, water, and security issues are execrated by the droughts and floods brought on by global warming.


Meat production does more to cause global warming than any other source.  The massive amount of animal feces produced in factory farms is the largest source of airborne methane in the United States.  Methane traps heat in the atmosphere almost 25 times more effectively than carbon dioxide does.  Animals raised for food in the United States produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population does – 86,000 pounds per second.  A typical pig factory generates a quantity of raw waste equal to a city of 50,000 people, but without the sewage system.  The runoff from factory farms pollutes rivers and lakes more than all other industrial sources combined.


Of all agricultural land in the U.S., nearly 80% is used to raise animals for food.  More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals.  Twenty times more land is required to feed a meat-eater than to feed a vegan.  Raising animals for food consumes nearly half the water used in the U.S. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat.  Chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated ground water in 17 states.


More than one third of all the raw materials and non-renewable fossil fuels used in the U.S. are required to raise animals for food.  This includes fuel to produce fertilizer for the crops that are fed to animals, oil to run the trucks that take them to slaughter, electricity to freeze their carcasses, and much more.  These flesh and blood, sentient creatures are killed in ways that would horrify any compassionate person.


Global climate change is a transformative issue that challenges environment versus economy and presents an opportunity to break with the past.  It has become evident that what is needed is a radical change of behavior and consciousness.  There needs to be a change in human values, hearts, and minds.  We need a light carbon footprint – a reduction of greenhouse gasses.  We need to harness more benign sources of energy.  According to Thomas Edison in 1931, “The Sun is the greatest source of energy.”  We need to plant more threes, and we need to eat less meat. 


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