UN: There’s Still Time to Fight Climate Change If We Eat Plant-Based
To protect the planet from environmental disasters linked to climate change, governments and citizens must commit to three major steps: Eating plant-based, using less carbon energy, and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. All three of these measures will drastically reduce the greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere and stop the planet from heating up at a dangerous rate of .3° F every decade.
The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released the third installment of its major climate change report, following the “Code Red” warning it released last August. The report states that the world must also slash methane emissions by 33 percent by 2030 to slow climate change, but one main difference was perceived in this installment: While the situation is dire, the report holds out hope that there is still time to act.
If the situation is hopeless, critics of climate change reporting have noted, then people throw up their hands and give up. If you give them productive, doable, effective steps, then they are incentivized to take action. The UN report appears to internalize that message: There is still time to save our planet, and the most effective thing an individual can do is shift toward eating plant-based; it is one of the easiest and most effective ways to lower our carbon footprint.
Greenhouse gas emissions are at the highest in history
The UN’s Sixth Assessment report explains that from 2010 to 2019, global greenhouse gas emissions reached the highest levels in human history. The report specifically focused on the rise of methane, noting that this greenhouse gas (GG) is 80 times more potent than CO2, which heats the atmosphere more slowly. The researchers claim that to minimize methane emissions, countries and people must work to reduce reliance on animal agriculture, alongside efforts to stop food fast and lower fossil fuel production.
While the report details the urgency required to stop climate change, the researchers also emphasize that there is still time to combat the alarming trend. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have already started to positively impact what scientists are measuring, the report points out. Climate change mitigation efforts – such as the proliferation of solar and wind power – have already helped decrease GG levels, but more improvement is needed.
Actions that reduce climate change are working
"You can see the first signs that the actions that people are taking are beginning to make a difference," IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea said. "The big message we've got (is that) human activities got us into this problem and human agency can actually get us out of it again.”
The IPCC report concluded that the greenhouse gas emissions must reach their peak before 2025 (which in scientific terms is a minute from now) and be reduced by at least 43 percent by 2030 to save the planet from a runaway cycle of heating since once the polar ice caps melt, the oceans will rise and our atmosphere will be irrevocably changed forever.
Currently, the Earth's temperature will keep rising toward the critical 1.5-degree Celsius benchmark that puts us in a "no turning back" position where the climate will produce more fires, floods, storms, and rising sea levels that will make life on this planet unrecognizable, and our food systems unsustainable.
The panel warns that climate change and global temperatures will only stabilize when the planet reaches net-zero carbon emissions. To remain below the tipping point of global warming, net-zero must be reached by the 2050s. The report also shows that if net-zero cannot be reached until the 2070s that global temperatures will reach 2.0º C.
Eating Plant-based is one part of the solution
This new report builds upon the IPCC’s August report, which claimed that humans were “unequivocally” responsible for climate change. The most recent installment highlights that while some traction in the energy sector has helped mend emission levels, action is necessary across the agriculture and forestry sectors in order to effectively mitigate the climate crisis. But, there is no doubt that humans can still properly stop climate change.
“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement. “I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations, and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”
Humans are responsible for climate change
The IPCC report serves as a warning for people across the planet, but more importantly, the panel of researchers aims to pinpoint the major sources of the greenhouse and guide policies to better alleviate the dangers. The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres explained that the world is on track to double the 1.5º C limit stipulated by the Paris Accord as the tipping point from which there is no return.
Guterres emphasized that “some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another.” There are 24 countries that grew their economies while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, something to use as a blueprint for other nations seeking to do the same.
This report details how the majority of methane and carbon emissions can be directly attributed to animal agriculture, echoing another report that claims that animal agriculture is actually responsible for 87 percent of food-related emissions. The IPCC also shows how carbon dioxide emissions from factories, cities, vehicles, and farms have increased exponentially in the 2010s.
Carbon dioxide emissions from factories, cities, buildings, farms, and vehicles increased in the 2010s, outweighing the benefits from power plants’ switching to natural gas from coal and using more renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Beyond animal agriculture and general manufacturing, the report also cites that the richest people and wealthiest planets are directly tied to global warming. The report states that the richest 10 percent of households take responsibility for a third to nearly a half of all greenhouse gas emissions, whereas the poorest 50 percent only produce 15 percent of emissions.
Plant-Based Eating Can Help Solve the Climate Crisis
Even though the UN’s urgent warnings may stir panic, the IPCC team stresses that there is a solution to the rise of greenhouse gases. In particular, the new IPCC report asserts that by improving plant-based technologies and promoting sustainable eating, people and governments can significantly help undercut the worsening climate crisis.
“Where appropriate, a shift to diets with a higher share of plant protein, moderate intake of animal-source foods, and reduced intake of saturated fats could lead to substantial decreases in GHG emissions,” the report states. “Benefits would also include reduced land occupation and nutrient losses to the surrounding environment, while at the same time providing health benefits and reducing mortality from diet-related non-communicable diseases.”
By shifting to a plant-based diet even twice a week, people could help save the equivalent of 14 billion trees. Plant-based production requires significantly fewer materials and energy to produce. For example, Impossible Foods conducted a life cycle assessment that found that producing its vegan sausage required 71 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, 79 percent less water, and 41 percent less land than its animal-based counterpart.
The IPCC plans to finish its Sixth Assessment Report later this year, providing more guidance to people and governments worldwide. The shift towards a plant-based diet remains a clear method of minimizing individual contributions to the climate crisis while removing the need for animal agriculture industries worldwide.
“Climate change results from more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production,” Skea said. “This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.”
Bottom Line: There is still time to act on climate change, the UN says. Going plant-based is an effective way to start
The United Nations released a report that urges citizens and governments to take action now to slow climate change. The good news: There is still time to act but we need to do it now. Eating plant-based is one of the most effective ways to lower your carbon footprint. Find out the other ways we can make a difference.