Cattle ranching, responsible for the great majority of deforestation in the Amazon, is pushing the forest to the edge of what scientists warn could be a vast and irreversible dieback that claims much of the biome. Despite agreement that change is necessary to avert disaster, despite attempts at reform, despite the resources of Brazil’s federal government and powerful beef companies, the destruction continues.
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‘We are going to be eating the rainforest in our burgers. This is our moment as Americans to step forward and leverage some pressure to save the world,’ one scientist said.
More than half of the rainforest could turn into savanna — threatening wildlife, shifting weather patterns and fueling climate change
The global production of food is responsible for a third of all planet-heating gases emitted by human activity, with the use of animals for meat causing twice the pollution of producing plant-based foods, a major new study has found.
Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have calculated that about 95% of current crop production takes place in areas they define as “safe climatic space”, or conditions where temperature, rainfall and aridity fall within certain bounds.
If Americans’ gave up meat and other animal products, would that solve our climate crisis? Research says no. In fact, it continues to demonstrate giving up meat would be a woefully inadequate solution to the problem of global warming and distracts us from more impactful mitigation opportunities.
The ethics of killing animals for their meat have been debated for centuries. But in recent years, the looming specter of climate change has given meat eaters an additional dilemma to consider: cattle and dairy farming, climate scientists have warned, is unsustainable, generating high levels of greenhouse gases at every stage of the production process. For many vegetarians and vegans, the climate factor has provided yet another powerful argument for leaving meat behind.
Beef and climate change are in the news these days, from cows’ alleged high-methane farts (fact check: they’re actually mostly high-methane burps) to comparisons with cars and airplanes (fact check: the world needs to reduce emissions from fossil fuels and agriculture to sufficiently rein in global warming). And as with so many things in the public sphere lately, it’s easy for the conversation to get polarized. Animal-based foods are nutritious and especially important to livelihoods and diets in developing countries, but they are also inefficient resource users. Beef production is becoming more efficient, but forests are still being cut down for new pasture. People say they want to eat more plants, but meat consumption is still rising.
To estimate the impact of U.S. dietary choices on greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers built a database that assessed the environmental impacts involved in producing more than 300 types of foods. Then they linked the database to the findings of a nationally representative, one-day dietary recall survey involving more than 16,000 American adults.