Eating less meat and dairy products in favor of plant-based proteins such as those found in grains, legumes and nuts can make a huge difference in just how much carbon dioxide reaches the atmosphere, study by Oregon State University shows.
Published in Nature Sustainability, the findings from OSU’s William Ripple and collaborators at New York University, Colorado State University and Harvard University detail the way agricultural property dedicated to creating animal-sourced food puts the squeeze on forests and other native vegetation well suited to absorbing CO2.
Via photosynthesis trees and other plants create energy from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, from the procedure storing some of the carbon in the form of wood and foliage and releasing oxygen.
When production is changed to more land-friendly foods, the door opens to the regrowth of native vegetation capable of cleaning away decades of climate-changing fossil fuel emissions.
The scientists mapped and examined areas where extensive production Of animal-sourced foods is probably impacting forests and other native vegetation. They identified areas totaling more than 7 million square kilometers – roughly the size of Russia – with conditions such that woods would regrow and thrive on their own if agricultural pressure were eliminated.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 40 percent since the dawn of this industrial era, contributing heavily to a warming world. As stated by the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, the global average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in 2018 has been 407.4 parts per million, greater than at any time in at least 800,000 years ago
Fossil fuels such as oil and coal contain carbon that plants pulled out of the air through photosynthesis over centuries. That exact same carbon is now being returned to the air in a matter of countless years since fossil fuels are being burned for energy,
The annual rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past six decades is approximately 100 times faster than gains caused by natural causes, such as the ones that occurred after the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago, according to NOAA.
Unlike nitrogen or oxygen, which accounts for most of the atmosphere, greenhouse gases absorb heat and release it gradually with time. Absent those greenhouse gases, the planet’s average yearly temperature could be below freezing instead of roughly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but too-high levels of greenhouse gases cause the planet’s energy budget to become unbalanced.
The greatest potential for climate-benefiting forest regrowth is in comparatively wealthy countries. In those countries, cutbacks in meat and dairy production would bring comparatively moderate impacts on food security, the researchers say, while considerably assisting in capping climate change at 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial age levels as called for in the 2016 Paris Agreement.
The vast majority of climate scientists agree that limiting warming to 1.5 levels would maintain significant proportions of ecosystems while also benefiting human health and trading.
Reducing meat manufacturing would also help water quality and quantity, Wildlife habitat and biodiversity, including boosting the ecosystem health that will help thwart pandemic diseases originating from animals as COVID-19 is believed to have done.
Related Journal Article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00603-4