Steven Richheimer: The climage change problem, what can we do? |

Steven Richheimer: The climage change problem, what can we do?

Climatologists point out that no particular storm can be tied to climate change — only that such devastating storms such as Harvey and Irma will become more common in the future, as the Earth warms due to the continued increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Climate change, which is brought on by the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels and reliance on animal agriculture as a source of food, threatens to displace millions of people, cause mass extinction of species and rapidly alter the lands and waters that humankind depends upon for survival.

According to a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and a 2009 report by the Livestock and Climate Change environmental assessment experts at the World Bank, animal agriculture is responsible for over half of the total global greenhouse gas emissions.

The FAO assessment was based on the most recent and complete data available, taking into account direct impacts, along with the impacts of feed crop production and the indirect effects of livestock production. Both reports concluded that the livestock sector is one of the most significant contributors to not only climate change but also to land degradation, water shortage, loss of biodiversity and air and water pollution.

This means that the unnecessary and unsustainable consumption of meat in developed countries accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation, electrical generation and other industrial uses of fossil fuels combined. It is estimated that the feeding of livestock now uses over 30 percent of the earth's entire arable land surface, mostly in producing feed for the animals.

Animal agriculture also drives deforestation, especially in South America where approximately 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing. In the U.S., over half of the food grains grown are fed to livestock.

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One might wonder why most environmental organizations stress the negative effects of fossil fuels on the environment but ignore the contribution from animal agriculture.

Could this be because their contributors do not want to learn that as a meat eater they are utilizing 18 times as much arable land as a vegan? Or that changing to a meatless diet would do much more for the environment than driving a hybrid car?

Or that 5 million acres of rainforest are felled each year to create pasture for cattle? Or that 82 percent of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries?

Could it be that if they were to address the actual source of most of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation, it would turn off their contributors?

Throughout the world, humans drink 5.2 billion gallons of water and eat 21 billion pounds of food each day, while cows drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion pounds of food daily. And, if you are like the average American and consume 209 pounds of meat per year, you may already know that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce the 1-pound steak you barbeque.

So, heck if you really want to take some action to help save the planet, become a vegetarian, or better a vegan.

Author's note: If you would like more information on this topic or check out the facts presented, see the documentary Cowspiracy on Netflix or check out

Steven Richheimer, Ph.D.

Steamboat Springs

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