Animal agriculture releases the powerful pollutants methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are the main culprits of the Earth’s emissions problem. However, new research claims that the introduction of a plant-based diet and the eradication of livestock farming could see their levels in the atmosphere drop dramatically “within decades”.
Published in the journal PLoS climate, the peer-reviewed article used computer simulations and modeling to predict the outcome of a global vegan diet in combination with the cessation of animal farming practices across the planet. Their results showed that the combined effect could stabilize greenhouse gases for 30 years and offset 68% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the century.
The study was co-authored by Patrick Brown, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University and Founder and CEO of impossible foodsand society adviser Michael Eisen, professor of genetics and development at UC Berkeley (who, it should be noted, have much to gain from the growing use of alternatives to animals in food production).
He used data from 2019 to run climate models, looking at four food scenarios: Plant-only replacing beef immediately or over a 15-year transition period, and switching to all-vegetable-only immediately or over 15 years. . The models took into account issues such as livestock-related emissions and biomass recovery by reclaiming farmland and mapped how these changes would influence atmospheric greenhouse gas levels and warming for the rest of the century. .
“The combined effect is both incredibly large and – equally important – rapid, with much of the benefits realized by 2050,” Brown said in a declaration.
“If animal agriculture were phased out over 15 years and all other greenhouse gas emissions were to continue unabated, the phase-out would create a 30-year pause in net greenhouse gas emissions and nearly offset 70% of the heating effect of these emissions until the end of the century.”
Changes are expected to come from decomposition and reduction of existing greenhouse gases as livestock methane and nitrous oxide cease and land use changes. Previous search supports key concepts, but details on exactly how such a 15-year plan might be implemented remain unclear and whether this is a practical and possible change in some parts of the world has yet to be been addressed.
The researchers, however, believe the findings point to a shift towards plants as a way to buy more time in the climate crisis.
“Reducing or eliminating animal agriculture should be high on the list of potential climate solutions,” Brown concluded. “I hope others, including entrepreneurs, scientists and global policymakers, will recognize that this is our best and most immediate chance to reverse the course of climate change and seize this opportunity.”