We must do more to prevent human caused climate change


We must do more to prevent human caused climate change

Vegan Society of Canada News, October 14th 2018

The new report by the IPCC, ahead of the COP24 conference this fall, once again confirms what has been discussed by us various time here, here and here. While the IPCC being an intergovernmental agency tends to produce the most optimistic reports, even they cannot escape drawing similar conclusion as everyone else. With regards to animal agriculture they state

Livestock are responsible for more GHG emissions than all other food sources.Emissions are caused by feed production, enteric fermentation, animal waste, land-use change and livestock transport and processing. Some estimates indicate that livestock supply chains could account for 7.1 GtCO 2 , equivalent to 14.5% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (Gerber et al., 2013). Cattle (beef, milk) are responsible for about two-thirds of that total, largely due to methane emissions resulting from rumen fermentation (Gerber et al., 2013; Opio et al., 2013).
Despite ongoing gains in livestock productivity and volumes, the increase of animal products in global diets is restricting overall agricultural efficiency gains because of inefficiencies in the conversion of agricultural primary production (e.g., crops) in the feed-animal products pathway (Alexander et al., 2017), offsetting the benefits of improvements in livestock production systems (Clark and Tilman, 2017).
There is increasing agreement that overall emissions from food systems could be reduced by targeting the demand for meat and other livestock products, particularly where consumption is higher than suggested by human health guidelines. Adjusting diets to meet nutritional targets could bring large co-benefits, through GHG mitigation and improvements in the overall efficiency of food systems (Erb et al., 2009; Tukker et al., 2011; Tilman and Clark, 2014; van Dooren et al., 2014; Ranganathan et al., 2016). Dietary shifts could contribute one-fifth of the mitigation needed to hold warming below 2°C, with one-quarter of low-cost options (Griscom et al., 2017). There, however, remains limited evidence of effective policy interventions to achieve such large-scale shifts in dietary choices, and prevailing trends are for increasing rather than decreasing demand for livestock products at the global scale (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012; OECD/FAO, 2017).
policy-driven pathways that encompass accelerated change away from fossil fuels, large-scale deployment of low-carbon energy supplies, improved energy efficiency and sustainable consumption lifestyles reduce the risks of climate targets becoming unreachable

As we mentioned before here, we think 14.5% is currently wrong in light of the latest updated figure obtained from the NASA funded research. Nevertheless, even at that level they conclude that dietary shifts could contribute 20% of the mitigation needed to keep level below 2 degrees Celsius, but that unfortunately just like climate change in general there is little evidence outside of ourselves, and a limited number of other groups, of any actual policy doing this. The report also stress that

Countries’ pledges to reduce their emissions are currently not in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

The IPCC is being a little misleading in this case. Current pledges are not only in line to exceed 1.5°C they are in line to be around 3°C with catastrophic consequences. This is if we can manage to overcome our selfishness and implement all the current pledges, because if we do not it could go as high as 4.8°C. Considering the temperature difference between the last ice age and now was about 4°C to 7°C and took 5 thousand years, and that our best guess was that the warmest the planet has ever been in the last 500 million years was 14°C more the pre-industrial levels, it demonstrate how an increase of 3°C or 4.8°C in less then 100 year is both consequential and unprecedented.

One very interesting part of the report is that unlike Greenpeace's report which require drastic changes, none of the scenario that were modeled have a probability of keeping temperature below 1.5°C by 2100 that is greater then 67%. That is correct, none of the scenario modeled offer a much better probability at keeping temperature increase below 1.5°C then a having head on a coin toss.

We can only speculate why that is. However, the wording used in the following statement

Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes

gives us a pretty good hypothesis. Perhaps the changes required to achieve a 1.5°C by 2100 with a probability of 95% are too drastic for an intergovernmental panel to propose or discuss. We know how selfish we are, perhaps faced with the truth we would simply conclude that human caused mass extinction is perhaps not so bad after all. We would apologize to children and future generations for ending organized human life as we know it, and then continue driving this planet into the ground.

However we must not give up, the stakes are too high. Unfortunately, the report decided to focus their discussion in a 1.5°C vs 2°C framework while the pledges of all the country to the Paris agreement, let alone the current policies, will produce a 2.6°C-3.2°C increase by 2100. As we speak we have already increased 1°C and estimates put a 1.5°C increase will be achieved around 2040. It would seem crucial to include the impact of such increase instead of focusing on the 1.5°C-2°C range. Nevertheless, in the mildest manner possible that only an intergovernmental could use when talking about the potential for mass extinction, they remind us that

Human-induced global warming has already caused multiple observed changes in the climate system
Substantial global differences in temperature and extreme events are expected if GMST reaches 1.5°C versus 2°C above the preindustrial period
Some regions are projected to experience multiple compound climate-related risks at 1.5°C that will increase with warming of 2°C and higher
Risks to natural and human systems are lower at 1.5°C than 2°C
Any increase in global warming (e.g., +0.5°C) will affect human health. Risks will be lower at 1.5°C than at 2°C for heat-related morbidity and mortality, particularly in urban areas because of urban heat islands.
Ocean ecosystems are experiencing large-scale changes, with critical thresholds expected to be reached at 1.5°C and above
There are multiple lines of evidence that there has been a substantial increase since AR5 in the levels of risk associated with four of the five Reasons for Concern (RFCs) for global warming levels of up to 2°C

Do not delay any longer, let's save ourselves, the planet, and countless animals by going vegan today. Join one of our local community in your area or contact us for help on how to get started.