The meat industry’s effect on global warming


Natalia Alvarez

Although greenhouse gases play a crucial role in maintaining survivable temperatures on Earth, their large presence constantly and increasingly contributes to climate change.

Natalia Alvarez, Reporter, Photographer

The meat industry’s effect on the exponential accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere proves its close relation to climate change. Although the popularity of the argument often pertains to the meat industry’s impact on global temperatures, this statement appears to raise questions about their correlation.

The anthropogenic interrelationship comes back to the increasing production of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The term greenhouse gases and greenhouse effect seems to pop up when discussing global warming, but few know what they actually consist of and how they affect the global climate.

Greenhouse gases, gaseous compounds that absorb sun rays and infrared radiation, trap heat in the atmosphere, therefore increasing overall global temperatures. These gases, although not harmful in nature, critically affect climate change due to their increasing presence. The existence of GHG aids life on Earth, making the Earth’s surface warmer in order to sustain life.

Scientists categorize these gases into forcing and feedback GHG emissions, both produced in different environments. Forcing GHG include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, while feedback GHG solely come in the form of water vapor.

Forcing GHG remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time, producing a lasting and accumulating effect on global warming. On the other hand, water vapor resides in the atmosphere for only a few days, quickly responding to the changes in atmospheric temperature. Water vapor directly becomes affected by forcing greenhouse gases, making their impact more prominent to the average person because the water vapor presents itself in the form of natural disasters and vigorous weather.

Animal and plant respiration, deforestation, an increasing population, constant burning of fossil fuels, and intensive livestock farming all contribute to the build up of GHG in the atmosphere. These causes directly correlate with the meat industry’s practices that lead to the release of GHG. The act of consuming meat itself does not affect climate change, but the use of techniques involving meat production such as fertilizer for the grazing grass and the need to feed large populations increasingly affects the concentration of GHG.

Other harmful practices within the meat industry include the massive stockpiling of manure later used as fertilizer, and the feces emit nitrous oxide, a powerful GHG. In addition to animal waste, raising and feeding cattle contribute to a large portion of GHG emissions due to the agriculture practice of using chemical fertilizers that prove harmful to the environment. The shipping and production of meat burns fossil fuels, creating more GHG that trap heat and maintain it in the atmosphere.

The longstanding concept of supply and demand serves as one of the direct causes linked to the meat industry’s massive contribution to GHG emissions. As the market for livestock meat increases, companies become forced to boost production, resorting to corrupt ways of manufacturing that directly affect global climate change.