10 WTF Statistics on the Impact of Meat on Global Warming

Meat’s impact on global warming is huge – factory farming emits more than transport, cutting meat can save emissions, and certain meats have high GHG levels.

You’ve heard chatter about meat consumption and the environment — but do you really know the true impact of meat on global warming?

Here are 10 crazy statistics about that meat industry and global warming that will have you saying, “WTF”:

Also – check out these other beef / climate change posts –

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1. Factory farming is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector combined.

With all the talk about fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, it’s easy to think the main culprit of global warming is your car. And yet, factory farming actually surpasses the entire sector combined. Worldwide, livestock accounts for between 14.5-18% of greenhouse gas emissions, uses approximately 70% of the world’s available freshwater, and 45% of total land use.

2. Cutting meat out just one day a week over the course of the year can have a huge (positive) impact on the environment.

I’m talking HUGE impact. According to the Earth Day Network, if you were to cut out a burger a week, the impact on the environment would be the same as taking your car off the road for 320 miles. Skipping steak once a week with your family would equal taking your car off the road for nearly three months. And if the entire U.S. decided to skip meat and cheese once a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

3.Lamb, beef, and cheese have the highest GHG emissions.

Not all meat is created equal, especially when it comes to GHG emissions. Lamb, beef, and cheese come from ruminant animals that generate methane through their digestive process constantly — and methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. If you want to make a change but need to ease into it, consider cutting one of these high emission generating meats first.

4. Animals raised for food produce 1.4 billion metric tons of manure, which is 130 times more excrement than the entire human population put together.

If you’re doing the math, that’s a total of 87,000 pounds per second. This manure production contributes to livestock’s total gas emissions, which include 37% of all methane and 65% of all nitrous oxide (which 296 times more potent than Co2).

5. If all Americans abstained from eating meat for three days a week, they would save almost 300 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Those savings would be even more impactful than replacing all US cars with Toyota Priuses.

6. If the world’s population shifted to a low-meat diet, $20 trillion would be saved from the cost of fighting climate change.

For this scenario, a low-meat diet is defined as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week. Imagine that — you don’t even have to give up meat completely! Just reduce your consumption.

7. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce a single pound of meat.

Meanwhile, it takes just 25 gallons of water to produce a single pound of wheat. And if you were to eliminate a single pound of meat from your diet, you’d be saving more water than you would if you didn’t shower for six months. Pick your poison.

8. More than 90% of the Amazon rainforest cleared since 1970 has been used for meat production.

Rainforests are natural defenses against global warming, because they convert CO2 into oxygen. The more rainforests we clear, the more we hurt the the environment.

9. Annual global meat production is projected to hit 465 million tons in 2050.

People aren’t just continuing to eat meat — they’re eating more and more of it, and the impact on global warming only continues to worsen.

10. Livestock grazing is the number one reason plant species in the U.S. go extinct.

The more livestock we raise for meat consumption, the more plants go extinct.

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