The food-related climate crisis

Nyla Pirani
May 25, 2020 · 8 min read

The planet that humans have lived their entire existence on, is dying. The ironic thing is that humans are killing it.

We have been continuously polluting and ruining our Earth and if we don’t fix it soon, we won’t be around much longer.

Most people, if not everyone already knows this is a huge problem. I don’t think I need to convince you to care about our only home dying.

I am writing this article to educate you on the climate crisis and help you understand what’s happening.

☁️ Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)

The greenhouse effect is a natural process that heats up the surface of the Earth. When the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it’s reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed and re-radiated by GHGs.

The problem with GHGS is humans are increasing the amount of GHGS in the atmosphere.

This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect. Here is what it looks like:

Step 1: Solar radiation reaches the Earth’s atmosphere. Some of this is reflected back into space.

Step 2: The rest of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the land and the oceans, heating the Earth.

Step 3: Heat radiates from Earth towards space.

Step 4: Some of this heat is trapped by GHGs in the atmosphere, keeping the Earth warm enough to sustain life.

Step 5: Burning fossil fuels, agriculture, land clearing etc are increasing the number of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

Step 6: This is trapping extra heat, and causing the Earth’s temperature to rise.

Once Earth's temperature gets too hot, humans won’t be able to survive here.

Where are GHGs coming from?

There are tons of different GHGs in our atmosphere. The main ones are CO2, Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Fluorinated Gases. This is a breakdown of their percentage in the atmosphere from 2018:

Humans also have a bunch of different industries in place. Electricity, heating, agriculture and transportation are only a few of them. But the systems used in these industries are incredibly inefficient.

The other approach that I think would work well is reducing GHGs by industries / economic sector.

Here is a breakdown of GHGs produced by industries / economic sector:

This shows that the two biggest parts of all Greenhouse Gas Emissions are Electricity (25%)and Agriculture (24%).

In this article, I am going to dive deeper into agriculture!

🥘 Food-related climate crisis

A lot of people don’t even realize how much of an impact agriculture has on the climate crisis. But it is the second biggest source of GHGs.

When I first started researching I didn’t get how that amount of GHGs could come from agriculture, isn’t it just meat? Well, that's exactly where they come from.

In fact, about 56% of GHGs from agriculture come from meat alone!

don’t believe me? here's proof 😎

🥩 GHGS in meat

Over half of the GHGs in agriculture come from protein production (meat) alone. Something most of us love to eat is actually a huge contributor to the climate crisis.

I don’t believe that getting rid of meat is a good solution. We need the protein and energy we get from meat, plus they taste delicious. Getting rid of them completely just wouldn’t be sustainable.

Let's dive deeper into how meat is currently being produced and then I will go into a new solution where we wouldn’t have to stop eating meat.

The current protein production systems

Every year, over 12,000 megatonnes of carbon are emitted as a result of agriculture practices. The largest sources of carbon emissions in agriculture come from transporting food and factory production. This isn’t sustainable at all and if we keep these numbers where they are we won’t survive much longer.

37% of all human methane emissions come from the agriculture industry, as a result of cattle farming and food waste decomposing. Every cow produces between 70kg and 120kg of methane per year. Worldwide there are approx. 1.5 billion cattle. Methane is 28x+ more potent at warming our planet than carbon dioxide is, increasing the environmental footprint of agricultural practices on Earth’s climate.

These numbers are insane 🤯

Another greenhouse gas emission from agriculture is nitrous oxide. It is created when fertilizers soak into soil or water. It lasts approx. 114 years in the atmosphere contributing to global warming and contaminate local habitats.

TLDR:

  • 12,000 megatonnes of carbon are emitted as a result of agriculture practices yearly
  • 37% of all human methane emissions come from the agriculture industry
  • Nitrous oxide is also being emitted and it stays in our atmosphere for 114 years.

These stats completely blew me away. There is no way we can sustain this amount of GHGs in our atmosphere.

Remember this is only from meat! There are many other industries producing tons of GHGs.

😞 The results of the climate crisis

The climate crisis has so many horrible effects on Earth. Here are just a few of the horrible things climate change is doing:

Walruses losing their habitats

Climate change is causing the ice caps to melt. This means species like walruses are losing their habitats. They are now living on islands off the coast of Russia just like this one. There’s not enough space for them on these islands and they end up getting into stampedes that cause them to get hurt.

Sometimes to get out of overpopulated crowds, they climb up cliffs. The problem with this is that their eyesight isn’t good out of the water and they are falling off the cliffs.

If you want to deeper understand this huge problem, check out the documentary Our Planet on Netflix.

Deforestation

We all know that trees provide us with oxygen. But people are cutting them down to make space for agriculture, like farming livestock.

This can be done through clear-cutting or through burning down forests. Both of these scenarios are incredibly bad for the Earth.

Check out this article to learn more about this problem.

Rising Sea Levels

Our sea levels are rising. This means that countries near coasts or on islands like Tuvalu are going to sink.

We are already overpopulating the little land we have to live on. Climate Change is limiting our land. This is a huge problem.

Click here to read more about this problem.

These are only a few of the many effects climate change is having on our Earth. If this doesn’t convince someone that this is a huge problem, I honestly don’t know what will.

⚙️ How are we tackling this?

There are a few people working on tackling the food-related climate crisis.

Here are a few:

United Nations SGD Goals

Sustainability development goals (SGD) are a collection of 17 global goals. These are designed to be the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for humans. The SGDs were set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and the goal is to achieve them by 2030.

The goal of SDG #13 is to take urgent action to tackle climate change and its impacts.

For more information check out this page by the UN on SDG #13!

Impossible Burger

Impossible Foods is making meat, dairy and fish from plants. Their mission is to make the global food system truly sustainable by eliminating the need to make food from animals.

More information on them here!

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is a producer of plant-based meat substitutes. They have products designed to simulate chicken, beef, and pork sausage.

For more information check out their website!

Well all of these solutions are interesting and have had some impact, the food-related climate crisis is still a huge problem.

The reason behind this is they aren’t as nutritious and energizing as beef, they don’t taste the same and they aren’t easily distributed (high costs).

We have these innovative ways of producing food, but if they don’t have the same nutritional values and don’t taste the same people would just rather eat meat.

In addition to that, developing countries are responsible for 63 percent of current carbon emissions. So, if these innovative solutions cost a fortune to them, there is no way they will be able to adapt to this new lifestyle as well.

🦖 The solution of the future

Me and my Co-founder Adara Hagman are working on a solution that is nutritious, energizing, tastes like beef and easily distributed (low cost)!!

At Carbovore, we’re on a mission to create a carbon-neutral future for protein production by 2050. Our approach is to experiment with emerging technologies to create alternative protein production methods with a focus on creating closed-loop systems.

Bugriculture is our current focus for alternative protein production. This involves farming crickets and other insects. We are going to create The Carbovore Burger — a burger patty made from insects. Our main focus area for research and experimentation is carbon capture and recycling into protein products. Carbovore is creating protein products for the environmentally-conscious carnivore.

it’s nutritious and sustainable!

After doing a cost analysis 1 pound of meat from Carbovore would be $6, but once we start mass-producing our cost will reduce to $3. Right now, beyond meat and the impossible burger is $12 a pound and beef is $6.40 a pound!

Not only is it cheaper but it has way more protein as well!

Amount of protein in 100g of Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat and Crickets

🦖 Recap of Carbovore:

  • We are on a mission to create a carbon-neutral future for protein production by 2050 by using bugriculture and carbon capturing.
  • We are far more sustainable than cows
  • We have more protein content than Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat and cows
  • We have less fat content and more energy from consumption than cows (lean cows)
  • Cheaper than Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat and Cows (Currently $6 a pound compared to $12 a pound)

🧠 Recap of the article — TLDR:

  • Agriculture contributes to 24% of GHG’s by the economic sector which is the second-highest contributor
  • Our current protein production process (meat) emits 56% of all agriculture-related GHGs.
  • We have a few current solutions for example beyond meat, impossible burger but those haven’t stopped the problem
  • In order to fix the problem, we need a nutritious, tasty and easily distributed (low cost) product. That’s where Carbovore comes in 😎

I hope you learned something about the food-related climate crisis and understand how much of a problem this is!

Stay tuned for more articles by following the Carbovore publication!

If you enjoyed this article you can find more of me here:

✏️ Medium

🖥 Linkedin

❤️ Personal Website

Learn more about my Co-Founder Adara Hagman here:

✏️ Medium

🖥 Linkedin

❤️ Personal Website

See you soon :)

Carbovore

Creating a carbon-neutral future for protein production.

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