Meat and Global Warming: 8 Popular Studies to Educate Anyone

Studies show meat consumption impacts global warming. Livestock’s Long Shadow, Japanese beef study, and others reveal the environmental impact.

You’ve probably landed here because you’re trying to help someone understand the impact of meat on global warming, or you’re trying to learn more yourself. A view without fact is just an opinion, but luckily there are tons of facts to support the claims that meat consumption has an impact on the environment. Whether you’re a Prius owner or someone who swears they’ll never give up meat, here are 10 studies on meat and global warming to help you or someone else understand the impact and hopefully reduce meat consumption.

1. Livestock’s Long Shadow

One of the most comprehensive studies of the impact of meat on global warming and the environment, Livestock’s Long Shadow is a United Nations report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006. It served as the main scientific source for the documentary Meat of Truth, and remains one of the most cited studies in regards to the meat industry and its environmental impact.

2. Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow-calf system by the life cycle assessment method

This study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan brought us the conclusion that a kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than driving for 3 hours while simultaneously leaving all of the lights on back home. Ouch.

3. Diet, Energy, and Global Warming

As one of the first major studies on the subject, Diet, Energy, and Global warming shows that the food we eat is just as important as the cars we drive when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. The study found that choosing a vegan diet reduced more greenhouse gases than trading out your SUV for a Toyota Prius.

4. Amazon Cattle Footprint

This study found that cattle ranching is responsible for the majority of deforestation in the Amazon, and 5% of deforestation worldwide. It’s estimated that deforestation is responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than transportation.

5. Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States

While many meat and global warming studies touch on the environmental impact on production, not many in the U.S. compared the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of production to those of long-distance transportation. This study looked at both factors to conclude that reducing meat in one’s diet has more of an impact than buying local, as production emits more GHG than transportation/delivery from producer to retailer.

6. Climate benefits of changing diet

This study found a global shift to a low-meat diet would not just substantially benefit people’s health and the environment (specifically land use), but could also save $20 trillion off the cost of fighting global warming.

7. The Cheeseburger Footprint

This study took the carbon footprint of something ordinary — a cheeseburger — to evaluate its gas impact. The conclusion? “The greenhouse gas emissions arising every year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs. “

8. Climate-friendly dining meats

Did you know not all meat is created equal? This study looks at the individual carbon footprints of beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Beef is the highest, contributing 78% of meat’s greenhouse gas emissions (and yet only accounts for 30% of consumption).

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