A Plant-Based Diet Can Help Fight Climate Change According To UN Report

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By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

There are many people who are concluding that the recent erratic climatic behaviour of our Earth could be related to climate change. Now, we cannot confirm it unless we go through a lot of tests, but that climate change is happening does not require much evidence. We can already feel it and scientists are continuously warning us about it. Now, all we need is to find some solutions for it – lowering fossil fuel use is one, but are there others?

UN experts say that there is. According to them, going for a plant-based diet can tackle climate change.

It’s a win for vegans, and yes, the news can be depressing for meat-lovers, but then, studies don’t lie. The West consumes large amounts of meat and because of that, they are contributing to global warming. It also results in large swathes of land being used. Cutting down on meat means less use of land for animal breeding and cultivation. 107 scientists have come together to prepare this document under the UN’s  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the experts, land, if used more efficiently, can store a lot of carbon that is emitted by human beings. The discussions were held in Geneva, in Switzerland.

Of course, experts are not forcing people to completely stop consuming meat. They are aware that there are places on Earth where people can only eat meat – they have no choice. But according to Professor Pete Smith, an environmental scientist working with Aberdeen University in the UK, the West consumes a lot of meat. Consequently, we waste a lot too. This results in greenhouse emissions which have been connected with food wastage and loss. It can go as high as almost 8-10% of the total global emissions of the planet. It can also result in desertification and soil damage – both contributors of climate change. The experts have warned that there are many governments who are growing trees for the sole purpose of burning them as fossil fuel. This will enhance global warming if the scale is not controlled!

The land is important and the basis of our livelihood. But with climate change, it can lead to drastic changes that will be concerning for our planet’s future

Read: Ethiopia Plans To Plant 4 Billion Trees To Save The Planet

Link Between Climate Change and Food?

Climate change will affect our food supply. Due to climate change (erratic rain, extreme temperatures, etc.), our soil and livestock will be affected. On the other hand, agriculture itself contributes to climate change by producing a quarter of greenhouse gas. Livestock rearing results in methane gas emission as well as clearing off trees to create pastures. The impact on the environment is concerning, and so, there is a UK-based group known as #NoBeef that has taken the matter in their own hands. They try to remove lamb and beef off the menus of students. In the US, plant-based substitutes have been used to make burger patties, which contain heme, a substance that makes the patty taste just like meat. According to Peter Stevenson who belongs from Compassion in World Farming, there needs to be a decrease in the consumption of meat so that we can meet the climatic goals that we are setting. Unfortunately, beef consumption is shifting too – like in China, beef consumption has grown despite the attempts of the Chinese government to promote the traditional food of China.

Reduction of Food Waste – An Option?

The experts are also concerned about food waste and want to stop it, either before its sale to the consumers or after it. Food waste can be utilized as fodder to animals or it can be directed to charities if it is of the right condition. Partage, an organization in Switzerland, take unsold food that is thrown away by shops and gives it to families. They also collect stale bread and then transform it into dry fruits, biscuits and even canned vegetables. This will lower Carbon Dioxide emissions.

How About Trees Absorbing Carbon Dioxide?

Trees can, of course, be our saviours as they are known to absorb carbon dioxide and can bring carbon dioxide levels down and lower climate change. But then, if the effect is too high, then trees will be adversely affected as well and their role will fall dramatically. For example, heat stress is already leading to a fall in vegetation in the equator. Plus, Dr Katrin Fleischer working in the Technical University of Munich has said that there are places where phosphorus is low in the soil. Phosphorus helps in plant growth and hence, will lower the tree’s role in absorbing carbon dioxide.

Read: After 31°C Weather, Freak Hail Storm in Guadalajara Buries Trucks in 1.5-Meter Ice

What Role Does Soil Play Here?

Soil is the second-largest storage are of carbon, the first being our oceans. When the plants absorb carbon dioxide, they lock it in the soil. But then, deforestation and harmful practices in farming has degraded soil and released the stored carbon dioxide into the air. This will speed up climate change. Plus, high temperature breaks down the organic material in soil, aggravating the degradation. Controlled livestock grazing, proper land management and boosting the fertility of the soil can help – overexploitation must stop. It’s time that we consider land as something that plays a significant part in monitoring the climate of a place.

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There must be a change in how we use the land, which includes changing farming tactics.

According to experts, people must:

  • Keep the natural forests protected, especially those present in the tropical regions
  • Consume vegetables more and lower consumption of red meat
  • Restore and protect peatlands
  • Promote agroforestry. This is where food crops will be mixed with trees
  • Improving the variety of crops

Another solution is bioenergy but it is controversial. It includes burning vegetation instead of coal as fossil fuels. While it produces CO2, it can be easily captured and used. The International Energy Agency or IEA believes that it might outpace wind, solar as well as hydropower within five years. Though the experts of this report believe that it might adversely affect countries which require the same soil for growing crops for food. Limitations should be placed for biofuel productions.

Let’s hope people are ready to make some major sacrifices for the planet.

IMAGE CREDIT: Svetlana Kolpakova

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