Changing the Main Course of Climate Change
By Chloë Waterman
As the Trump administration's dangerous deregulatory agenda leads us closer to climate catastrophe, cities, counties and businesses are stepping up to address the crisis. Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released their "Fulfilling America's Pledge" plan, laying out the top climate strategies for subnational governments and businesses, at the Global Climate Action Summit.
Unfortunately, their high-profile report omitted a major solution and a big component of the climate crisis: food consumption.
Agriculture produces an astounding one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Meat and dairy alone generate about half of those food-related emissions—more than the combined tailpipe discharges from every plane, train, car, bus and boat around the world. We simply cannot meet our emissions reduction goals if we do not address meat and dairy consumption, even if all 10 strategies in the America's Pledge plan are successful. High meat-consuming countries like the U.S. must lead the way.
Combined, the world's top five meat and dairy companies create more emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. According to a July report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN, only two of the top 35 meat and dairy companies have made robust commitments to reduce their supply chain emissions. None of the nine U.S. companies on the list—Tyson Foods, Cargill, Hormel Foods, Perdue Farms and others—even report their supply chain emissions.
These nine companies produce most of their meat in Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina and Georgia—states lacking progressive climate policies. However, the majority of their consumers live in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities. As centers of consumption, cities must confront their role in driving factory farming.
That's why a coalition of 45 public health and environmental organizations wrote an open letter to the 280 cities and counties that are members of We Are Still In Coalition, urging them to incorporate meat and dairy reduction into their climate strategies.
Project Drawdown—a climate change mitigation project initiated by Paul Hawken and worked on by a team of more than 200 scholars, scientists, policymakers and activists—names "plant-rich diet" as the fourth most impactful climate mitigation strategy, just after reducing food waste, a related strategy also omitted by America's Pledge.
The most direct way cities, counties, universities and school districts can shift diets is by leveraging their massive purchasing power to buy more plant-based foods, measurably reducing their carbon footprint and improving health. For example, public schools serve seven billion meals a year. If every single public school swapped out a beef burger for a protein-rich veggie burger on the school lunch menu just once a month, it would save 1,407,533,657 pounds of CO2-eq, the equivalent of over 1.5 billion fewer miles driven.
In addition to public institutions slashing meat from their menus, the food industry must step up to the climate action plate. A recent report from Mighty Earth found that 19 of the 23 top U.S. food companies have no commitments for mitigating the environmental impacts of their meat supply. Large restaurant chains, grocery retailers and foodservice management companies like Aramark, Sodexo and Compass Group should be tracking and reducing their supply chain carbon footprints and moving to plant-forward menus.
Climate-friendly diets are not only a high impact strategy—they are also cost-effective, making them an obvious place for cities, counties and businesses to focus their climate mitigation efforts. For example, a pilot analysis of Health Care Without Harm's "Balanced Menus: Less Meat Better Meat" program found that four San Francisco Bay Area hospitals collectively saved about $400,000 per year. A 2017 analysis from Friends of the Earth found that Oakland Unified School District saved $42,000 (and improved student meal satisfaction) by reducing the meat and dairy on their menus by 30 percent.
The Global Climate Action Summit took small steps toward realizing the value of shifting diets by announcing a new initiative to cut food sector emissions by 25 percent by 2030, including "Climate-friendly Diets" in its 30x30 Forests, Food, and Land Challenge and even serving plant-forward cuisine. Following the summit, California took a step of its own when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making California the first state to require plant-based options in health care facilities and state prisons.
At the international level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report released last week warned that the window for fending off the worst impacts of climate change is closing quickly and recommended "[limiting] demand for greenhouse-gas intensive foods through shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets." Yet, in contrast, America's Pledge missed a huge opportunity by omitting food consumption from the "Fulfilling America's Pledge" plan.
If we truly want to fulfill America's pledge and solve the climate crisis, we must move away from meat- and dairy-intensive diets. Cities, counties, states, businesses, universities, school districts and hospitals can lead the way by shifting toward plant-forward foods to change the main course of climate change and help rescue our ailing planet.
Going Vegan Is the Best Thing You Can Do for the Planet, New Study Proves https://t.co/M1vtznpcll @ForksOverKnives @TheVeganSociety— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523309420.0
Chloë Waterman serves as senior food campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S. where she implements policy and markets campaigns to advance a sustainable and just food system.
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
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