Record Temperatures Are Scorching Europe: How We Can Save the Planet

|Updated Sep 20, 2022
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Tuesday is predicted to be the hottest day ever recorded in British history, as this week, Europe gets blasted by an unprecedented and punishing heat wave. The sweltering temperatures have sent many cities into crisis mode, as people unused to living in climates above 100 degrees have to adapt to a new reality: Climate change is here.

As Western Europe faces temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or nearly 40 Celcius) in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom many without working airconditioning, the pressing question becomes what, if anything, can each of us do right now to stop further heating of our planet? The answer, or part of it, is as simple as changing the way we eat and lowering our food systems' production of greenhouse gases.

European Countries React to Record Temperatures

In England, officials are painting railroad tracks white and telling commuters to stay home, in the hopes that they can prevent the tracks from buckling in the extreme heat. British citizens are experiencing the first-ever “Extreme Red” heat warning, a new level of danger in a country where many businesses and homes don't have AC. In fields, farmers are inspecting crops that appear to be cooking on the vine. As crops fail, food prices soar. The time to make changes in how we eat and how we think about our food is here..

Europe’s heatwave places climate change front and center on the agenda as European lawmakers scramble to address the dangerous temperatures. With European infrastructure unfit to accommodate higher temperatures, this heat wave is exposing how unprepared the world is for the real impacts of climate change and high greenhouse gas emissions.

Between July 10 and July 15, approximately 360 people died due to extreme heat in Spain. On Saturday, the Portuguese health ministry told Reuters that over 650 people died due to heat-related causes, meaning that one person died every forty minutes between July 7 and 13. In France, 14,000 citizens have evacuated from the southwest regions due to forest fires.

“This is not just summer,” Green French lawmaker Melanie Vogel wrote on Twitter. “It is just hell and will pretty soon become just the end of human life if we continue with our climate inaction."

On July 7, the European Union’s executive stated that the continent would face one of the worst seasons in regards to climate disasters. The EU warned citizens of droughts and wildfires to continue to worsen over the course of the summer. Drought conditions have worsened in Greece and Italy – where the government has declared a state of emergency across the Northern regions. The EU executive attributes this change to worsening climate change.

Stalled Climate Action in the United States

Meanwhile, in the US, two-thirds of the continental map is in a "red zone" of record temperatures, and climate change policy initiatives have stalled in a divided Senate.

President Biden and congressional Democrats developed a climate policy package over the last two years that would have finally been able to break the gridlock that has stalled environmentally-conscious legislation. Supported by 49 senators, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) blocked the Build Back Better bill, stalling climate change action. Machin’s disapproval of the bill will cut regulations to cut carbon pollution and gut subsidies intended for the clean energy section.

This closely follows the Supreme Court decision to roll back environmental protections carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency. The decision will limit the EPA’s ability to regulate power plant carbon emissions. The three dissenting justices state that the six justices responsible stole the EPA’s power to respond to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”

What Can We Each Do About Climate Change?

Despite all this grim news and government inaction, there is something we each can do to help dial back or slow the march of climate change, and that is to change our diets. By eating more plant-based and less red meat and animal protein, each of us can drastically reduce our impact on the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by our food systems.

This April, the United Nations released its latest climate change report that emphasized that while the consequences of climate change have already started, there’s still time to combat worsening environmental issues. The report highlighted that governments and citizens can effectively curb climate change by using less carbon energy, reducing atmospheric Co2, and most easily, eating plant-based.

Eating for the environment is the easiest and quickest method to help curb climate change. Now, 55 percent of consumers consider the sustainability of their food choices when grocery shopping, meaning that most shoppers can be considered climatarians. Coined in 2015, the Cambridge Dictionary defines a climatarian as "a person who chooses what to eat according to what is least harmful to the environment."

Climatarians represent the most recent category of plant-based or plant-forward dieters. The quick rise of the climatarian can be attributed to increased consumer awareness. Climate change is directly affecting millions of people worldwide. Last year, extreme weather events cost the US $145 billion in damages and many hundreds of lives lost, according to the US National Centres for Environmental Information (NCEI). With these numbers set to get worse, here’s why eating plant-based can help reduce the consequence and slow down climate change.

Why Eating Plant-Based is More Environmentally Friendly

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 57 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Plant-based diets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 61 percent.
  • Meat and dairy products currently use 83 percent of total farmland, according to The Guardian.
  • Eating plant-based twice a week for a year is the equivalent of planting 14 billion trees by helping minimize land use and reversing deadly greenhouse gas emissions
  • Eating plant-based for one day saves enough water to take 100 showers.
  • Eating plant-based for one day is the equivalent of NOT driving your car that day.
  • Eating just one plant-based meal a day for a year saves the carbon equivalent of not driving from New York to Los Angeles, according to One Plant-Based Meal a Day founder Suzy Amis Cameron.
  • Eating plant-based helps foster biodiversity and protect approximately 626 species from losing habitable areas.
  • An Impossible Burger requires 78 times less land use to create than a conventional beef burger.
  • Eating beef one to two times a week for a year contributes six to 30 times more missions than plant alternatives such as tofu.

How You Can Start Eating Plant-Based

Looking to eat and shop with the planet in mind? Check out The Beet's plant-based Beginner's Guide. Incorporating even one plant-based meal a day helps the environment by curbing the risk factors associated with animal agriculture. No matter if you start as a vegetarian, flexitarian, vegan, partly-plant-based, or climatarian diet, any shift towards plant-forward eating helps slow down the lethal consequences of climate change.

Soon, products may have labels that will inform shoppers about how sustainable their food choices are. Most recently, Denmark announced that its government will introduce climate-conscious labels on food products. The initiative intends to help improve customer choices and keep companies accountable for their impact on the environment and the climate crisis.

For more planetary news, visit The Beet's Environmental News articles

Sandra Oh and 20 Others It Might Surprise You to Learn Are Plant-Based

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1. Paul McCartney

Sir James Paul McCartney is no stranger to a meat-free life as he's been vegetarian for 45 years. He initially went vegetarian in 1975 with his first wife Linda McCartney and began his advocacy for animal rights.

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2. Sia

If you find yourself constantly singing along to the song The Greatest, then you're already a Sia fan. Sia tweeted that she is "fully vegan now" back in 2014 and stays true to her word

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3. Sandra Oh

Way back at the start of Grey's Anatomy, Sandra Oh took the cast out for a plant-based lunch at Truly Vegan in Hollywood. In her effort to inspire contemporaries to eat vegan, the TV star is known to invite her friends for vegan meals that are delicious. She adopted the vegan lifestyle years ago and continues to quietly live a cruelty-free life.

4. Gisele Bündchen

Giselle revealed that when she was at the peak of her modeling career, her diet consisted of "cigarettes, wine, and mocha Frappuccinos," according to an interview in People Magazine. Now 39 and the mother of two children, Gisele eats a "mostly" plant-based diet to nourish her body and stay fueled.

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5. Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin has made a bigger commitment to plant-based eating since he was first told by doctors that he was pre-diabetic and needed to change his diet. That was decades ago. But, over the last few years, he's been vocal about the benefits not only to his health but also the impact plant-based eating has on the environment.


7. Pamela Anderson

We all remember Pamela Anderson as the curvaceous blonde in the hit series Baywatch as she played Casey Jean in the red one-piece swimsuit that brought her world-class fame. She is a life-long active animal rights advocate and teamed up with PETA to join the Animal Protection Organization.

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8. Kristen Stewart

"We shouldn't eat as much meat guys," Kristen Stewart told GQ in an interview in January. The Twilight star has made a full 180 from vampire to vegan. When she appeared on the game show "Hot Ones" she chose to skip the wings and instead compete by eating increasing spicier sauce on vegan cauliflower wings.


9. Jared Leto

This award-winning actor eats a high-protein diet consisting of only plants. Leto, who has been plant-based for 20 years, says it keeps him "shredded" in an interview. Now, 48, Leto looks half his age.


10. Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith switched up his diet from vegan to vegetarian, meaning that he doesn't eat meat but does eat dairy from time to time. In a recent article by Plant Based News, Smith admits he skipped meals and was not getting the proper nutrition when he was vegan, but this hasn't stopped him from espousing the plant-based life.

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11. Meghan Markle

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has never admitted to being fully vegan, but sources say, she eats a plant-based diet most days during the week. She is teaching Prince Harry vegan cooking and in a Plant-Based News article, Markle explained how she hopes to raise baby Archie on a mostly vegan diet.

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12. Serena Williams

As a professional athlete, fueling the body is a key factor to Willaim's successes. In a Bon Appetite article, she explained that she adopted a plant-based diet back in 2012, she was eating a lot "healthier" for her sister, Venus, who eats a strict vegan diet for health reasons.

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13. John Mackey

The popular grocery store, Whole Foods Market sells vegan products and nonvegan products which arises black lash from ethical vegans as CEO John Mackey follows a strict vegan diet. The successful businessman grew up in Houston Texas and told Business Insider that he would traditionally eat processed foods for dinner while watching TV with his family. Now, Mackey steers clear from the processed isle and eats a clean vegan diet and feels amazing at the age of 65.

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14. Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz, singer of the popular song, I'm Yours, committed to a vegan diet to support his friend diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Mraz says he eats mostly raw food and told magazine sources his favorite vegan dish is "Chocomole, a mixture of avocados, dates, cacao, agave nectar, and coconut oil."


15. Leona Lewis

Long time vegan, Leona Lewis grew up in a vegan household and continues to eat a plant-based diet. Lewis first adopted the diet at 12 when she learned about the health risks of eating animal products but told Women's Health Magazine she occasionally eats an omelet. She also mentioned her 2:30 lunch is normally a kale salad topped with dried cranberries and she loves a veggie stir-fry for dinner.


16. Hannah Teter

Hannah Teter changed her diet after watching the documentary, Earthlings when she discovered how "horrible" factory farming is. After a strict vegetarian diet, Teter liked the way she performed as an athlete and believes that her diet helped her win gold at the 2006 games.


17. Maggie Q,

You may recognize Maggie Q as the star of the Nikita series, but in the plant-based world, she's well-known for her heroic activism. Maggie Q has followed a strict vegan diet for 19 years, making her a true veteran of the lifestyle. She made the plant-based diet transition because she felt sluggish and had low energy, she has said. The famous actress keeps in shape by eating veggies and plant-based protein and working out with a passion.

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18. Madelaine Petsch,

Winner of the first Masterchef vegan cook-off with Gordon Ramsay, Madelaine Petsch was raised vegetarian and went completely vegan at age 14. She claims that she started this diet before it was "trendy" and shot a campaign for PETA last year wearing a dress made of bok choy. Petsch says her vegan diet allows her to feel "healthier" and not "lethargic."

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19. Millie Bobbi Brown

After doing a little sleuthing on her social media platforms we think Millie Bobbi Brown qualifies as plant-based. Whether or not she is actually skipping all meat and dairy, one thing is for sure: She eats mostly salads, vegetables and grains and lives a predominantly plant-based lifestyle full of healthy foods.


20. Chloe and Halle Bailey

The grammy-nominated sisters went vegan for a week with their mom but liked it so much they decided to stick with it. For one thing, it helps keep their "voices in shape" by eating a vegan diet and they emphasize the fact that dairy helps to limit extra mucus build-up, according to a PETA interview.

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21. Hilary Duff

Best known for her role as Lizzie Mcguire in the long-running series, Hilary Duff is a recent vegan advocate and entrepreneur. She recently launched the vegan and cruelty-free eyeshadow palette, "Day Dreamer" and changed her diet to plant-based last fall.