If we all decide to be vegan tomorrow…

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If we all decide to be vegan tomorrow…

After a new study The Guardian newspaper repeats the idea that being vegan is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth. Chris Saltmarsh and Harpreet Kaur Paul disagree:


REUTERS/Jason Reed

If everyone decides to be vegan tomorrow, between 14.5 to 15.6 per cent of human-made global greenhouse gas will stop. That is big. Some think it is more. A Guardian article looked at a new study from the University of Oxford, and reported that meat and dairy make 60 per cent of agricultural greenhouse gas.

There is a global temperature increase of about 1.2°C, and so climate change has already caused harm, and a reduction in greenhouse gas can stop some of the harm. We could plant forests on the land used for meat and dairy, we could then direct grains fed to cattle, save water, and environmental damage from animal agriculture could stop. But making changes in diet is not enough and it also brings problems. Making the majority world vegan would hurt the rural poor. A survey of 7978 families in 24 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, found that the need for wild meat is highest in the poorest homes and is necessary when there are no other foods. Many traditional and indigenous cultures living with nature hunted meat sustainably long before capitalist agriculture. They have done this with respect for animals and their part in nature.

Climate change is part of our social, economic, political, and cultural systems. It makes inequality worse. Climate harms groups unfairly and harms people already suffering from social, political and economic exclusion. In 2017, weather problems like floods and hurricanes meant 24 million people had to move. Financial losses will be billions of dollars by 2050, but non-financial losses, which include culture and environments, will be impossible to replace.

Even if you really change your shopping list, it will not solve these problems. We need to change our economy away from fossil fuels and improve people’s lives as we do it. What about the majority (85.5-84.4 per cent) of the other greenhouse gas? There are two main causes. First, fossil fuel companies. They profit from the oil, gas, and coal that we all know must stay in the ground. And they do this often without thinking about human rights and indigenous lands. Exxon and Shell knew in the 1960s that they would cause terrible climate problems like extreme weather on the US east coast. Shell even predicted civil society anger, and litigation such as that against them by Friends of the Earth Netherlands. They knew what they were doing. They predicted the results of putting profit before people and the planet. But they continued and with the support of governments.

Governments are also responsible for not regulating the fossil fuel industry and also supporting it financially. We’re not only talking about Trump. The UK continues to allow the fracking industry in Northern communities. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government in Canada is using $4.5bn of public money to bring back the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline without the agreement of First Nations. The EU uses the European Commission’s Projects of Common Interest programme to give political and financial support to a new gas industry across Europe. The banks support companies and governments. For example, HSBC and Barclays spend billions supporting companies to expand oil, gas, and coal extraction globally. Without their finance, these projects would not be possible.

Governments in the Global North have done well from fossil fuels with economic growth, better infrastructure, high standards of living, and technology. These benefits harm the communities in the majority world. They suffer unfairly when governments continue to make greenhouse gas possible. These communities suffer most from climate change and are trying to repair the harm already done. The harm may be from crop failure as a result of saltwater, sea level rise, or they have to move to allow for dirty oil pipelines.

Activists in the majority world fight environmental and climate injustice daily and don’t worry about the dangers of protest. in 2017, 97 environmental activists, wildlife rangers, and indigenous leaders trying were killed when they tried to protect land. We need to act with them.

The Paris Agreement (2015) recognized the serious risks of climate change for people and the planet. It wants to keep global warming below an average of 2°C and to try to limit the increase since preindustrial times to 1.5°C. On 17 May 2017, scientists said that we were likely to have used our carbon budget for 2°C warming by 19 May 2037. But they now think that we will release a trillion tons of carbon dioxide a year earlier, by 2 May 2036, resulting in warming of at least 2°C. We’re moving very quickly to climate disaster.

Scientists have argued that it is possible to have 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. We can ban all new fossil fuel work. We can take state finance away from fossil fuels, and invest in renewable energy that is produced ethically, without indigenous peoples moving or violating workers’ rights. We can invest in research and infrastructure to lock the economy into renewables and we can get countries in the Global North to make stronger plans to stop greenhouse gas. The Global North is responsible for more than three times as much greenhouse gas between 1850 and 2002 than developing countries, which have a much larger proportion of people, about 85 per cent.

The Guardian reports on the Oxford study by saying that ‘Avoiding meat and dairy is the “single biggest way” to reduce your impact on Earth.” But we disagree. Not eating meat and dairy would reduce greenhouse gases, but the facts suggest that there are bigger and more effective ways to make a difference.

These ways include: starting campaigns to take money out of fossil fuels and getting your employer, local authority, and university to invest in green energy. Organizing in your community for a cooperative municipal energy company to use renewables and stop fuel poverty. Taking action in your trade union and developing policies to support a change to renewables. Making links with fossil fuel workers and getting them to support us. Campaigning for banks like Barclays to stop giving finance for fossil fuels. Joining the many groups like anti-frackers. Starting litigation or supporting people who have brought challenges against governments or companies.

Chris Saltmarsh is the Fossil Free Campaigns Coordinator at People & Planet. He supports students to organize fossil fuels divestment campaigns and for Barclays to stop financing fossil fuel extraction globally.

Harpreet Kaur Paul is a PhD Candidate at the University of Warwick's Law School, her research is on climate justice for loss and damage.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2018/06/06/vegan-climate-carbon

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)