That's the takeaway from a study published in Nature Communications in October, which found that the tidal rhythms played a role in the intensity and frequency of methane releases from sediments in the Arctic Ocean. Lower tides meant more intense releases, while higher tides reduced the height and volume of gas releases.
"It is the first time that this observation has been made in the Arctic Ocean," study coauthor and researcher at the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) at the UiT-The Arctic University of Norway Jochen Knies said in a CAGE press release. "It means that slight pressure changes can release significant amounts of methane. This is a game-changer and the highest impact of the study."
Methane release from natural sources is tricky to quantify and constrain, especially in the Arctic Ocean. It turns… https://t.co/RoRiV0g8aH— CAGE (@CAGE)1607935502.0
To achieve their results, the researchers put a device called a piezometer in Arctic Ocean sediment about a meter (approximately 3.28 feet) from the seafloor and left it there for four days. The piezometer measured the pressure and temperature of sediment pores every hour and revealed that the upward and downward movement of gas is linked to pressure, which is in turn determined by the tides.
"Low tide means less of such hydrostatic pressure and higher intensity of methane release. High tide equals high pressure and lower intensity of the release," study coauthor Andreia Plaza Faverola, also of CAGE, said in the press release.
The findings have two major implications.
The first concerns the amount of methane the Arctic Ocean may be releasing into the atmosphere. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Once released into the atmosphere, it has 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide before it decays to the latter after one or two decades, Scientific American pointed out. It is currently generated by human activities like fossil fuel production and transportation, livestock agriculture and the decay of organic material in landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But there is also concern that, as the planet warms, it could be released by the thawing of frozen gas deposits in the Arctic Ocean known as hydrates. Preliminary data released by Arctic scientists in October revealed wide methane release off the Eastern Siberian coast, though other scientists urged caution as the findings have not yet been peer reviewed.
Now, Plaza Faverola says the new study provides evidence that Arctic Ocean methane release is occurring more often than previous observation techniques have revealed.
"This tells us that gas release from the seafloor is more widespread than we can see using traditional sonar surveys. We saw no bubbles or columns of gas in the water. Gas burps that have a periodicity of several hours won't be identified unless there is a permanent monitoring tool in place, such as the piezometer," Plaza Faverola said in the CAGE release.
Knies noted that the methane releases his team studied occured in the deep ocean, where they are less likely to reach the atmosphere and contribute to the climate crisis. But Knies suggested the study should be repeated studying shallower sediments.
"What we found was unexpected and the implications are big," Knies said in the release.
The second implication has to do with how global warming will interact with sea level rise to influence Arctic Ocean methane release. While higher temperatures mean greater thawing, the fact that greater water pressure reduces the height and volume of gas releases may mean that sea level rise partly counterbalances the impact of warming.
"Earth systems are interconnected in ways that we are still deciphering, and our study reveals one of such interconnections in the Arctic: The moon causes tidal forces, the tides generate pressure changes, and bottom currents that in turn shape the seafloor and impact submarine methane emissions. Fascinating!" Plaza Faverola said in conclusion.
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Super-emitters are individual sources such as leaking pipelines, landfills or dairy farms that produce a disproportionate amount of planet-warming emissions, especially methane and carbon dioxide. Carbon Mapper, the non-profit leading the effort, hopes to provide a more targeted guide to reducing emissions by launching special satellites that hunt for sources of climate pollution.
"What we've learned is that decision support systems that focus just at the level of nation states, or countries, are necessary but not sufficient. We really need to get down to the scale of individual facilities, and even individual pieces of equipment, if we're going to have an impact across civil society," Riley Duren, Carbon Mapper CEO and University of Arizona researcher, told BBC News. "Super-emitters are often intermittent but they are also disproportionately responsible for the total emissions. That suggests low-hanging fruit, because if you can identify and fix them you can get a big bang for your buck."
The new project, announced Thursday, is a partnership between multiple entities, including Carbon Mapper, the state of California, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Planet, a company that designs, builds and launches satellites, according to a press release. The project is being implemented in three stages.
The initial stage, which is already complete, involved the initial engineering development. NASA and Planet will work together in the second stage to build two satellites for a 2023 launch. The third phase will launch an entire constellation of satellites starting in 2025.
The satellites will include an imaging spectrometer built by NASA's JPL, NASA explained in a press release. This is a device that can break down visible light into hundreds of colors, providing a unique signature for chemicals such as methane and carbon dioxide. Most imaging spectrometers currently in orbit have larger pixel sizes, making it difficult to locate emission sources that are not always visible from the ground. However, Carbon Mapper spectrometers will have pixels of around 98 square feet, facilitating more detailed pin-pointing.
"This technology enables researchers to identify, study and quantify the strong gas emission sources," JPL Scientist Charles Miller said in the press release.
Once the data is collected, Carbon Mapper will make it available to industry and government actors via an open data portal to help repair leaks.
"These home-grown satellites are a game-changer," California Governor Gavin Newsom said of the project. "They provide California with a powerful, state-of-the-art tool to help us slash emissions of the super-pollutant methane — within our own borders and around the world. That's exactly the kind of dynamic, forward-thinking solution we need now to address the existential crisis of climate change."
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- EPA Proposes Phase Down of Climate Super-Pollutants ›
- China Now Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than Developed World ›
Medically reviewed by Anna H. Chacon, M.D.
From eating foods for healthy skin to switching up your morning and routines, taking care of the largest organ in the body can get overwhelming. Recently, vitamin C has grown in popularity in the skincare world — but do the best vitamin C serums live up to the hype?
Vitamin C is not only an essential supplement for your immune system and overall health, but it's also a great skincare ingredient that can help limit inflammation, brighten skin, dull fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, and reduce discoloration and dark spots.
Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine seems like a no-brainer, but before you start shopping for a serum, it's important to be aware that vitamin C is an unstable ingredient. Dermatologists say it's important to find legit and properly formulated vitamin C serums to capitalize on the benefits of the antioxidant. In this article, we'll help you find the right dermatologist-approved vitamin C serum to add to your routine.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin C Serums of 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
- Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in the formation of collagen and that protects against aging, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam. A vitamin C serum may be a solid addition to your skincare routine because it has a great safety profile, and it's safe for most skin types.
"Vitamin C serum restores and neutralizes environmental stressors that accelerate signs of aging and can be used morning and evening," Dr. Chacon says. However, she warns, "it does not come with sun protection, so additional use of sunscreen is recommended."
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects skin cells from being damaged by free radicals from things like UV exposure, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also hampers melanin production, which can help to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots and even out your skin tone.
6 Best Vitamin C Serums
Based on dermatologist recommendations and our market research, the following products are the best vitamin C serums available today.
Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
Our overall recommendation for the best vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. The product contains 10% vitamin C, which has anti-aging properties and minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots by promoting collagen production. "I have this in my bathroom," Dr. Chacon says. "It is gentle and non-irritating, and it leaves your skin radiant afterward."
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with L-ascorbic acid, this serum includes ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 for multi-layer antioxidant protection and plant-derived squalane for added hydration. ZO Skin Health's products are all cruelty-free.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Made with plant- and vitamin-derived antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, peptides and CoQ10, Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum will help rejuvenate your skin. The formula fights dullness, enhances firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free, as it's not tested on animals. The container is 100% recyclable through TerraCycle, and it's formulated and manufactured in the U.S.
Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid offers high value at a reasonable price. It is a hydrating vitamin C serum that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic and budget-friendly to boot. The formula uses 10% pure vitamin C to prevent free radical damage as well as soothing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to make the skin look smooth and create a moisture barrier for your skin.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 20,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Chacon calls CeraVe "a trusted, dermatologist-oriented brand" that comes at drugstore prices, so it's a great choice if you want to try out a budget-friendly vitamin C serum.
Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
Timeless Skin Care's vitamin C serum promotes healthy cell turnover to help minimize the effects of hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. According to Dr. Chacon, "vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are all key ingredients that help to brighten skin, building up collagen and evening out tone." This product's formula is non-greasy and lightweight, so it absorbs quickly and clearly into the skin.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Timeless Skin Care formula is paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, fragrance-free and polyethylene glycol-free. The company doesn't test on animals, and the product is made in the U.S. from natural ingredients. It's also part of the TerraCycle recycling program.
Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
Using dermatologist-approved ingredients, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is lightweight and helps to firm, smooth, and brighten the skin for a more youthful look. The formula utilizes 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid to protect against environmental damage from things like sunlight, ozone pollution and diesel engine exhaust. Plus, it helps firm the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is one of the best vitamin C serums for anti-aging purposes. It has an oil-like formulation that goes on smoothly and works effectively without clogging pores.
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C that's rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
FAQ: Best Vitamin C Serums
What vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Our top recommended vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. It is a dermatologist-approved antioxidant powerhouse, yet it is gentle, non-irritating and leaves you with glowing skin.
Should you use vitamin C serum every day?
Dermatologists recommend using vitamin C serum either every day or every other day. After you cleanse and tone your face, use your vitamin c product before applying moisturizer and reef-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Does vitamin C serum really work?
According to dermatologists, the best vitamin C serums work to protect against skin aging. However, if you do not purchase a doctor-recommended product, you run the risk of wasting your money on a low-concentration serum that won't give you any benefits.
What are the drawbacks of vitamin C serums?
Many vitamin C serums on the market, especially cheaper products, have nearly immeasurable concentrations of antioxidants, which makes them ineffective. Additionally, as with any skincare product, some individuals may have reactions to vitamin C serums including itchiness and redness.
Anna H. Chacon, M.D. is a dermatologist and author originally from Miami, Florida. She has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Cutis.
A major report on climate says both greenhouse gas concentrations and global sea levels hit record highs in 2020.
By Kenny Stancil
Bolstering the case for meaningful climate action, a major report released Wednesday found that Earth's atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and sea levels both hit record highs in 2020.
Based on the contributions of more than 530 scientists from over 60 countries and compiled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), State of the Climate in 2020 is the 31st installment of the leading annual evaluation of the global climate system.
"The major indicators of climate change," officials from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information pointed out in a statement, "continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet. Several markers such as sea level, ocean heat content, and permafrost once again broke records set just one year prior."
"Annual global surface temperatures were 0.97°–1.12°F (0.54°–0.62°C) above the 1981–2010 average" in 2020, said NOAA, making last year one of the three warmest on record "even with a cooling La Niña influence in the second half of the year."
Last year was the warmest on record without an El Niño effect, and "new high-temperature records were set across the globe," NOAA said. The agency added that the past seven years (2014-2020) had been the seven warmest on record.
Although the coronavirus-driven economic slowdown resulted in an estimated 6% to 7% reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020, the global average atmospheric concentration of CO2 increased to a record high of 412.5 parts per million. The atmospheric concentrations of other major greenhouse gases (GHG), including methane and nitrous oxide, also continued to climb to record highs last year despite the pandemic.
According to NOAA, last year's CO2 concentration "was 2.5 parts per million greater than 2019 amounts and was the highest in the modern 62-year measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years." Moreover, "the year-over-year increase of methane (14.8 parts per billion) was the highest such increase since systematic measurements began."
In addition, global sea levels continued to rise, surpassing previous records.
"For the ninth consecutive year," said NOAA, "global average sea level rose to a new record high and was about 3.6 inches (91.3 millimeters) higher than the 1993 average," which is when satellite measurements began. As a result of melting glaciers and ice sheets, warming oceans, and other expressions of the climate crisis, the "global sea level is rising at an average rate of 1.2 inches (3.0 centimeter) per decade."
Other notable findings of the new report include:
- Upper atmospheric temperatures were record or near-record setting;
- Oceans absorbed a record amount of CO2, global upper ocean heat content reached a record high, and the global average sea surface temperature was the third highest on record;
- The Arctic continued to warm at a faster pace than lower latitudes—resulting in a spike in carbon-releasing fires—and minimum sea ice extent was the second smallest in the 42-year satellite record;
- Antarctica witnessed extreme heat and a record-long ozone hole; and
- There were 102 named tropical storms during the Northern and Southern Hemisphere storm seasons, well above the 1981–2010 average of 85.
In contrast to the release less than three weeks ago of the latest assessment from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying extreme weather disasters—provoking a flurry of reactions and even garnering a short-lived uptick in corporate media's coverage of the climate emergency—NOAA's new report was met with less fanfare.
In one of the few early statements issued by members of Congress in response to the report, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) said that "scientists sounded the alarm on the climate crisis again."
"It is clear that without swift action, we can, unfortunately, expect to set new records like these every year," said Johnson, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. "The consequences of climate change impact every American—especially disadvantaged communities—across the country; from the devastating floods in Tennessee a few days ago to the record-breaking wildfires in the West."
"Building a better future for all means acting on climate now," the lawmaker added. "This situation is urgent, but it's not hopeless. We have an opportunity to lead the global response in the fight against the climate crisis—we cannot afford to waste it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By Kenny Stancil
The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide surged past 420 parts per million for the first time in recorded history this past weekend, according to a measurement taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii.
When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research station "began collecting CO2 measurements in the late 1950s, atmospheric CO2 concentration sat at around 315 PPM," the Washington Post reported. "On Saturday, the daily average was pegged at 421.21 PPM—the first time in human history that number has been so high."
Climate activist Greta Thunberg took notice of NOAA's most recent data on CO2 levels. She described the first-ever documented eclipse of 420 PPM of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere as "truly groundbreaking."
Is this is confirmed, then it is truly groundbreaking to say the least. And I don’t mean that in a good way... https://t.co/vwFOENLcWQ— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1617619321.0
Exceeding 420 PPM of the heat-trapping gas "is a disconcerting milestone in the human-induced warming of the planet, around the halfway point on our path toward doubling preindustrial CO2 levels," the Post noted, adding:
There is special significance in reaching and surpassing a concentration of 416 PPM. It means we've passed the midpoint between preindustrial CO2 levels, around 278 PPM, and a doubling of that figure, or 556 PPM.
The record of 421 PPM reached Saturday is just a single point and occurred as CO2 levels are nearing their yearly peak. But the levels over the past two months, of more than 417 PPM, signal that the annual average concentration is likely to exceed 416 PPM.
While the growing concentration of atmospheric CO2—which increases the global average temperature and the number and severity of extreme weather events—is a long-term trend that corresponds with the rise of fossil fuel-powered capitalism, it has accelerated particularly rapidly since the 1970s.
CO2 concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory reached a daily record of 421.21 Parts Per Million (PPM) on April 3.… https://t.co/2KYjC8IntE— Steve Bowen (@Steve Bowen)1617640923.0
The doubling of atmospheric CO2 is expected to increase Earth's temperature by 2.6 to 4.1ºC above preindustrial averages, a level of planetary heating that would "rul[e] out more modest warming scenarios," as the Post noted.
"Even if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were to plummet overnight, the planet would continue warming for years to come," the Post added. That's because, as Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in California, told the newspaper: "The amount of warming that the world is experiencing is a result of all of our emissions since the industrial revolution—not just our emissions in the last year."
As the Post reported, CO2 isn't the only GHG with "worrying trends." Emissions of methane and sulfur hexafluoride have spiked, too.
Although methane doesn't remain in the atmosphere as long as CO2, it absorbs heat much more effectively, which means that it greatly exacerbates the climate crisis. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2 in the first two decades after its release.
Here's the Post on sulfur hexafluoride, a GHG that "results from the production of insulators used on electrical grids [and] also reached all-time records of 10 parts per trillion":
While its concentration remains orders of magnitude more dilute than that of most other major greenhouse gases, its rate of increase in the atmosphere has doubled since 2003.
Sulfur hexafluoride is also thousands of times more potent—a single molecule can cause 23,900 times more warming than a molecule of CO2. And a single molecule of sulfur hexafluoride can stick around in the atmosphere for more than three millennia.
While the Paris climate agreement seeks to limit the rise in annual mean global temperature to 1.5°C above preindustrial averages by the end of the 21st century, the World Meteorological Organization warned last year that there is a 20% chance the world will hit or surpass that level of warming in at least one year by 2024.
"The science is clear," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in December. "Unless the world cuts fossil fuel production by 6% every year between now and 2030, things will get worse. Much worse."
As forest ecologist Giorgio Matteucci tweeted Monday, "We have to act!"
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Large methane leaks rose 32 percent in the first eight months of 2020, according to Paris-based data firm Karryos, as Reuters reported.
The rise in the harmful greenhouse gas is notable because it happened during worldwide lockdowns that led to drops in carbon emissions. It also happened despite pledges from the oil and gas sector to limit their carbon emissions.
Karryos, which analyzed satellite data to calculate the extent of methane emissions, says there are roughly 100 methane leaks happening around the world at any given moment.
"Such increases in methane emissions are concerning and in stark contradiction to the direction set in the Paris agreement," said Antoine Rostand, president of Kayrros, as The Washington Post reported. "Despite much talk of climate action by energy industry stakeholders, global methane emissions continue to increase steeply."
According to Karryos' data, in some methane hotspots, emissions rose 40 percent higher than over the same time frame in 2019. Those areas were Algeria, Russia and Turkmenistan. In addition to those three countries, the U.S., Iraq and Iran were the three largest methane emitters in the first two-thirds of 2020, as The Washington Post reported.
Methane does not stick around the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, but it is a far more potent gas in the short term. In fact, according to Climate Change News, methane's impact on the heating of the planet is 84 times higher than CO2 over its first 20 years.
The technology to reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas industry is already available. According to the International Energy Agency, if the industry used current technology, it could lower its methane emissions by three-fourths in the next decade, as Climate Change News reported.
Rostand said the largest leak that Karryos was able to detect was in Iraq, which released 400 tons per hour. The leak extended 150 miles into Saudi Arabia. In the U.S., the largest leak emitted 150 tons of methane per hour, which is equivalent to 10 coal-fired plants running at maximum capacity, as The Washington Post reported.
"We see from the sky, not on the ground, but what we are observing is the wrong trend. We should have expected decreases ... but that has not been the case," Rostand told the oil and gas news site Upstream.
Fixing methane gas leaks is expensive and requires significant equipment upgrades, which the industry has been slow to invest in as its profits have plummeted in 2020 due to decreasing demand.
"It's a pure consequence of cost cutting," Rostand said, as Reuters reported.
The European Union has responded to the data and issued a new strategy Wednesday to address emissions from methane, as Climate Change News reported. The E.U. is the world's largest importer of natural gas and has the potential to make a significant impact in the regulation of methane emissions.
"The Commission will examine options as regards possible methane emission reduction targets or standards or other incentives on fossil energy consumed and imported in the EU in the absence of significant commitments from international partners," the strategy states.
So far, the binding targets for emissions reductions are still under consideration. They will need to be implemented and enforced for the E.U. to reach its climate targets and to achieve its stated goal of net zero emissions by 2050, according to Climate Change News.
According to the Clean Air Task Force, significant regulations from the E.U. could reduce methane emissions from the gas industry by 5 million tons per year, which is equivalent to shutting down nearly 120 coal-fired power plants, as The Washington Post reported.
"It is clearly time to reduce these emissions," Rostand said Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. "They are easy to fix. We have the technology to fix them." Without that investment, he said, "gas that leaks methane is as bad as coal."
Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that large methane leaks (more than 5 tons per hour) rose 32 percent, not total methane emissions.
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- Permian Oil and Gas Sites Are Releasing Methane Pollution ›
Environmental activists temporarily shut down construction of the already over-budget and behind schedule Mountain Valley Pipeline in southwestern Virginia on Monday.
Organizers with the group Appalachians Against Pipelines said 10 people locked themselves to construction equipment to protect native species threatened by the controversial pipeline that would carry fracked gas — primarily methane — more than 300 miles from West Virginia to southern Virginia.
"Right now we're looking at a future with extreme water shortages, accelerating difficulty in growing food, mass human displacement due to natural disasters and manmade disasters caused by pipelines like these," said Mandy, one of the protesters. The temporary construction comes as activists across the state are ramping up pressure to block the pipeline.
For a deeper dive:
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- North Carolina Denies Key Water Permit to Mountain Valley Pipeline ... ›
By Ermias Kebreab and Breanna Roque
Methane is a short-lived but powerful greenhouse gas and the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. And the majority of human-induced methane emissions comes from livestock.
About 70% of agricultural methane comes from enteric fermentation – chemical reactions in the stomachs of cows and other grazing animals as they break down plants. The animals burp out most of this methane and pass the rest as flatulence.
There are roughly 1 billion cattle around the world, so reducing enteric methane is an effective way to reduce overall methane emissions. But most options for doing so, such as changing cows' diets to more digestible feed or adding more fat, are not cost-effective. A 2015 study suggested that using seaweed as an additive to cattle's normal feed could reduce methane production, but this research was done in a laboratory, not in live animals.
We study sustainable agriculture, focusing on livestock. In a newly published study, we show that using red seaweed (Asparagopsis) as a feed supplement can reduce both methane emissions and feed costs without affecting meat quality. If these findings can be scaled up and commercialized, they could transform cattle production into a more economically and environmentally sustainable industry.
Ruminant animals, such as cows, sheep and goats, can digest plant material that is indigestible for humans and animals with simple stomachs, such as pigs and chickens. This unique ability stems from ruminants' four-compartment stomachs – particularly the rumen compartment, which contains a host of different microbes that ferment feed and break it down into nutrients.
This process also generates byproducts that the cow's body does not take up, such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Methane-producing microbes, called methanogens, use these compounds to form methane, which the cow's body expels.
We first analyzed this problem in a 2019 study, the first such research that was conducted in cattle rather than in a laboratory. In that work, we showed that supplementing dairy cows' feed with about 10 ounces of seaweed a day reduced methane emissions by up to 67%. However, the cattle that ate this relatively large quantity of seaweed consumed less feed. This reduced their milk production – a clear drawback for dairy farmers.
Our new study sought to answer several questions that would be important to farmers considering whether to use seaweed supplements in their cattle. We wanted to know whether the seaweed was stable when stored for up to three years; whether microbes that produce methane in cows' stomachs could adapt to the seaweed, making it ineffective; and whether the type of diet that the cows ate changed the seaweed's effectiveness in reducing methane emissions. And we used less seaweed than in our 2019 study.
A steer eats alfalfa pellets as equipment measures his gas emissions, including methane. Breanna Roque / CC BY-ND
Better Growth With Less Feed
For the study, we added 1.5 to 3 ounces of seaweed per animal daily to 21 beef cows' food for 21 weeks. As with most new ingredients in cattle diets, it took some time for the animals to get used to the taste of seaweed, but they became accustomed to it within a few weeks.
Cattle in the study adjusted quickly to seaweed supplements in their food. Breanna Roque / CC BY-ND
As we expected, the steers released a lot more hydrogen – up to 750% more, mostly from their mouths – as their systems produced less methane. Hydrogen has minimal impact on the environment. Seaweed supplements did not affect the animals' carbon dioxide emissions.
We also found that seaweed that had been stored in a freezer for three years maintained its effectiveness, and that microbes in the cows' digestive systems did not adapt to the seaweed in ways that neutralized its effects.
We fed each of the animals three different diets during the experiment. These rations contained varying amounts of dried grasses, such as alfalfa and wheat hay, which are referred to as forage. Cattle may also consume fresh grass, grains, molasses and byproducts such as almond hull and cotton seed.
Methane production in the rumen increases with rising levels of forage in cows' diet, so we wanted to see whether forage levels also affected how well seaweed reduced overall methane formation. Methane emissions from cattle on high-forage diets decreased by 33% to 52%, depending on how much seaweed they consumed. Emissions from cattle fed low-forage diets fell by 70% to 80%. This difference may reflect lower levels of an enzyme that is involved in producing methane in the guts of cattle-fed low-fiber diets.
One important finding was that the steers in our study converted feed to body weight up to 20% more efficiently than cattle on a conventional diet. This benefit could reduce production costs for farmers, since they would need to buy less feed. For example, we calculate that a producer finishing 1,000 head of beef cattle – that is, feeding them a high-energy diet to grow and add muscle – could reduce feed costs by US$40,320 to $87,320 depending on how much seaweed the cattle consumed.
Global methane sources include fossil fuel and biomass combustion, agriculture (mainly livestock), the breakdown of waste in landfills and natural decomposition in wetlands. Jackson et al., 2020, CC BY
We don't know for certain why feeding cattle seaweed supplements helped them convert more of their diet to weight gain. However, previous research has suggested that some rumen microorganisms can use hydrogen that is no longer going into methane production to generate energy-dense nutrients that the cow can then use for added growth.
When a panel of consumers sampled meat from cattle raised in our study, they did not detect any difference in tenderness, juiciness or flavor between meat from cattle that consumed seaweed and others that did not.
Commercializing seaweed as a cattle feed additive would involve many steps. First, scientists would need to develop aquaculture techniques for producing seaweed on a large scale, either in the ocean or in tanks on land. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would have to approve using seaweed as a feed supplement for commercial cattle.
Farmers and ranchers could also earn money for reducing their cattle's emissions. Climate scientists would have to provide guidance on quantifying, monitoring and verifying methane emission reductions from cattle. Such rules could allow cattle farmers to earn credits from carbon offset programs around the world.
Ermias Kebreab is an Associate Dean and Professor of Animal Science. Director, World Food Center, University of California, Davis.
Breanna Roque is a Ph.D. Student in Animal Biology, University of California, Davis.
Disclosure statement: Ermias Kebreab receives funding from the Foundation for Agricultural Research, Elm Innovations, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Grantham Foundation. He advises feed additive companies such as Blue Ocean Barns and Mootral. Breanna Roque does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
By Stuart Braun
The melting of the polar ice caps has often been portrayed as a tsunami-inducing Armageddon in popular culture. In the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, the warming Gulf Stream and North Atlantic currents cause rapid polar melting. The result is a massive wall of ocean water that swamps New York City and beyond, killing millions in the process. And like the recent polar vortex in the Northern Hemisphere, freezing air then rushes in from the poles to spark another ice age.
The premise is obviously ridiculous. Or is it? Rapid glacial retreat in Alaska in 2015 did in fact trigger a huge landslide and a mega tsunami that was nearly 650 feet high when it hit shore. Few knew or cared because it luckily happened at the end of the Earth where no one was living.
Many of us might believe we won't be directly impacted by the breakup of trillions of tons of ice due to global heating. We figure that unless we live on a small island in the Pacific, or have a house on the beach, it's not our problem.
Or Is It?
While it's true that the glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets covering 10% of the Earth's land mass are mostly in the middle of nowhere, their rapid breakup has a cascading effect.
Consider how all the extra fresh water in the ocean is diluting salt levels. And how that messes with the balance of the Gulf Stream, one of the world's most important ocean currents. The result is climate extremes, especially tropical storms and hurricanes in places like the Gulf of Mexico, but also more frequent floods and droughts on both sides of the Atlantic. It's gonna suck for a lot of people.
To put this meltdown in context, the rate of ice sheet retreat has increased nearly 60% since the 1990s. That's a 28 trillion ton net loss of ice between 1994 and 2017. Antarctica's epic ice sheet, the world's largest, and the world's mountain glaciers have suffered half of this loss.
OK, That Sounds Like a Lot — But So What?
Again, it's the domino effect that's worrying. With temperatures rising twice as fast in the Arctic — the world's air conditioner — than anywhere else on the planet, the heat is not just melting ice. It's also weakening atmospheric air currents known as the jet stream. In other words, more bad news for the weather.
The polar vortexes that have been freezing Europe and North America in recent years are related to a weakened polar jet stream — a scenario that triggered the sudden ice age in The Day After Tomorrow.
The cold might be welcome as the planet heats up, but here's the thing: Arctic regions are heating up, too. Which means the ice that's supposed to be reflecting the sun's energy away from Earth isn't as much anymore, leaving the sea to absorb this heat.
No surprise then that in 2018 the winter ice sheet in the Bering Sea bordering Alaska was at its lowest levels in over 5,000 years.
Fish, sea bird, seal and polar bear habitats are also disappearing with the ice. Indigenous communities in the Arctic who once hunted in a thriving frozen ecosystem are being upended — their houses are also falling in the sea as the lack of ice causes the coast to erode.
Sure, it's an underpopulated part of the world. But consider also the rapid thaw of permafrost on the Siberian tundra. One of the world's biggest carbon sinks, the tundra is now releasing greenhouse gases like methane that were long trapped below the frost.
Some scientists have predicted that by century's end, 40% of permafrost regions will have disappeared, meaning they will no longer retain, but will also release carbon dioxide — and we're talking more than is already in the atmosphere right now. As global heating is turbocharged, bye bye to more ice.
Which leads us to the elephant in the room: rising sea levels.
How Bad Could Rising Sea Levels Get?
So let's start with the worst-case scenario — and remember the culprit here would be ice sheets and glaciers on land.
If the fast-retreating Antarctic ice sheet, the world's largest, completely melted, the world's oceans would rise by about 60 meters (about 200 feet). That would be Armageddon and London, Venice, Mumbai and New York would become aquariums.
Don't panic, though, this won't happen any time soon. But if emissions aren't sufficiently scaled back to mitigate climate change, some researchers reckon oceans will definitely rise by at least 2 meters by the end of the century. That's still enough to swamp the several hundred million people living below 5 meters above sea level. Another 350 million or so living higher up would have to relocate to escape regular coastal flooding.
Can't People Just Move?
Maybe, but that wouldn't be the end of it. The world's mountain glaciers, which number roughly 200,000, are melting much faster than they can accumulate these days. Problem is, though they only cover less than 0.5% of the Earth's landmass, these "water towers" provide fresh water to about a quarter of the world's population.
Glaciers also feed the rivers that irrigate the crops which hundreds of millions of people across Asia, South America and Europe depend on for their survival. So without them, many people will suffer from both thirst and hunger. Scientists say water tower retreat has put almost 2 billion people at risk of water scarcity.
Right now, cities like Santiago in Chile are watching a big part of their drinking water supply literally dry up as glaciers in the nearby Andes retreat. Meanwhile, the European Alps that supply so much fresh water across the region have shrunk by about half since 1900 and will be almost ice free by century's end if nothing more is done to curb warming.
OK, Is There Anything That We Can Do?
Like global heating in general, the best way to mitigate the meltdown is to stop polluting the atmosphere with global warming-inducing carbon.
Of course, the process can't be reversed overnight. Even if people across the world stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, one-third of the world's remaining glaciers would still disappear.
So to save some amount of precious polar and glacial ice, we need to avoid the temperature rise of over 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) that the UN says is inevitable if governments don't step up climate targets. If the world can decarbonize by 2050, it might be possible to preserve around one-third of the current glacial mass by century's end. That would take both government action and a radical commitment to reduce our individual carbon footprint.
The future remains uncertain. But it's likely that if melting isn't slowed real soon, disaster movie scenarios might not look so ridiculous to future generations.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
The study, published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change on Thursday, is the first to consider emissions other than carbon dioxide, such as methane from floods and cattle, and black carbon from forest-clearing fires.
"Cutting the forest is interfering with its carbon uptake; that's a problem," Kristofer Covey, lead author and Skidmore environmental studies professor, told National Geographic. "But when you start to look at these other factors alongside CO2, it gets really hard to see how the net effect isn't that the Amazon as a whole is really warming global climate."
The Amazon rainforest has long been touted as a carbon sink and natural ally in the fight against the climate crisis. However, recent studies have warned that humanity may lose the rainforest's help with continued deforestation. A study published in January found that forests worldwide still absorb 7.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, but rainforests in Southeast Asia have now become net emitters of carbon dioxide because of land use changes, EcoWatch reported at the time.
The Brazilian Amazon was also a net emitter of carbon dioxide between 2001 and 2019, the study authors found, even though the Amazon as a whole remained a carbon sink. However, a 2020 study warned that could change in the next 15 years.
All of these studies were limited because they focused exclusively on carbon dioxide emissions.
"As important as carbon is in the Amazon, it's not the only thing that's going on," Tom Lovejoy, study coauthor and senior fellow in biodiversity with the United Nations Foundation, told National Geographic. "The only surprise, if you can call it that, is how much more there is when you add it all up."
To address this gap, more than 30 scientists teamed up to analyze the existing data of "more." They found that it included emissions from the following sources:
- Black carbon: This is released from fires, such as the 2019 Amazon blazes that destroyed an area roughly the size of New Jersey. Soot particles from black carbon absorb sunlight and increase warming.
- Nitrous Oxide: This is naturally produced by forests, but gas emissions increase when wetlands dry and logging compacts the soil.
- Methane: This is also released naturally by rainforests from microbes in wet soil, which gets filtered into the atmosphere by trees. In the past, the Amazon's carbon storage abilities counteracted its methane emissions. Human activity is now limiting the forest's ability to store carbon as increased flooding, dam building and cattle grazing also release methane.
"We're taking away all the ability for the Amazon to absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere while also causing it to release other greenhouse gases," CNN Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin explained.
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The Biden administration announced it will use Obama-era calculations of the "social cost" of three greenhouse gas pollutants while an interagency working group calculates a more complete estimate, the White House announced Friday.
Often described as "the most important number you've never heard of," the "social cost" of greenhouse gases estimates the harms to society caused by each ton of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emitted into the atmosphere.
Those estimates are used across government in calculating the costs and benefits of proposed actions.
Though the administration did not specify the exact costs, multiple outlets report the interim estimate of the social cost of carbon will be approximately $51 per ton.
The interagency working group also set the social cost of methane, a far more potent heat trapping gas, at $1,500 per ton and at $18,000 for nitrous oxide, Politico reported.
The Trump administration had slashed those estimates to as low as $1 per ton for carbon dioxide and $55 per ton for methane.
The final estimate for the social cost of carbon produced by the interagency working group could reach as high as $125 after accounting for scientific advances and climatic damage over the past four years but the Obama-era estimates were subject to extensive scientific and agency review and public comment, making them more likely to withstand legal challenges.
For a deeper dive:
Animal Agriculture Responsible for 57% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Food Production, Study Finds
By Brett Wilkins
Global food production accounts for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, with meat and dairy responsible for twice as much planet-heating carbon pollution as plant-based foods, according to the results of a major study published Monday.
According to research published in Nature Food, 35% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to food production, "of which 57% corresponds to the production of animal-based food," including livestock feed.
"The global population has quadrupled over the last century," the study notes. "Demographic growth and associated economic growth have increased global food demand and caused dietary changes, such as eating more animal-based products. The United Nations projects that food production from plants and animals will need to increase 70% by 2050, compared to 2009, to meet increasing food demand."
"Increased food production," the paper continues, "may accelerate land-use changes (LUCs) for agriculture, resulting in greater greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduced carbon sequestration, and further climate change."
Beef production — which according to the study contributes 25% of all food-based greenhouse gas emissions — is by far the biggest culprit, followed by cow's milk, pork, and chicken. Among plant-based foods, rice production is responsible for 12% of food-based emissions.
The publication notes that the provision of adequate grazing land and food for livestock fuels deforestation, while the animals also produce tremendous quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas found to be up to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
"Global GHG emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods." A new study @NatureFoodJnl es… https://t.co/u5A8XdOv1H— Leila Niamir (@Leila Niamir)1631568176.0
"To produce more meat you need to feed the animals more, which then generates more emissions," University of Illinois researcher and study lead author Xiaoming Xu told The Guardian. "You need more biomass to feed animals in order to get the same amount of calories. It isn't very efficient."
The paper notes that while it only takes 2.5 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions to produce one kilogram of wheat, producing the same quantity of beef emits 70 kilograms of emissions.
"I'm a strict vegetarian and part of the motivation for this study was to find out my own carbon footprint, but it's not our intention to force people to change their diets," study co-author Atul Jain told The Guardian. "A lot of this comes down to personal choice. You can't just impose your views on others. But if people are concerned about climate change, they should seriously consider changing their dietary habits."
Jain added that "this study shows the entire cycle of the food production system, and policymakers may want to use the results to think about how to control greenhouse gas emissions."
20 meat and dairy firms emit more greenhouse gas than Germany, Britain or France. These emissions make up 56 to 58… https://t.co/jGwwpemIkp— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace)1631102387.0
The new study's findings closely mirror those of separate research published last week by Friends of the Earth Europe, its German arm Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz, and the Berlin-based Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, which concluded that worldwide food production accounts for up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with animal agriculture responsible for more than half of that amount.
Noting that "industrialized meat and dairy production are killing the planet, poisoning rural communities, and hurting independent farmers," the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said Monday that the Farm System Reform Act — legislation reintroduced in July by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) — "would end some of the worst practices and begin building a just food system for people and the planet."
Industrialized meat and dairy production are killing the planet, poisoning rural communities and hurting independen… https://t.co/gXfWyAUOIo— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1631539803.0
"Meat and dairy production in the United States is based on heavily subsidized factory farming — a leading contributor to climate change, pollution, pesticide use, biodiversity loss, wildlife killings, and worker exploitation," CBD explains in a petition supporting the proposed legislation, which is endorsed by more than 300 diverse advocacy groups. "This broken system is the result of the unequal power that multinational meat corporations wield over federal farm policy."
Reposed with permission from Common Dreams.
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That's just one of many shocking figures from the Meat Atlas 2021, a comprehensive look at the meat industry released by European nonprofits the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Friends of the Earth Europe and BUND Tuesday.
"Europeans today eat an average of 66 kilograms (approximately 146 pounds) of meat per year per capita, which is almost twice as much as the World Health Organization actually recommends, and this persistently high consumption and production also comes with immense social and ecological costs," Lisa Tostado, head of the International Climate, Trade & Agriculture Policy Programme for Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, said at a public launch event. "And to raise awareness, provide information, and also foster a nuanced debate on the livestock center, the Heinrich-Böll Foundation and Friends of the Earth have compiled facts and figures on meat."
Launch of the Meat Atlas 2021: Facts and figures about the animals we eat www.youtube.com
Listen to the Science
The Meat Atlas 2021 is a comprehensive account of the industry's impact on environmental and public health, totaling more than 70 pages and covering more than 30 topics from land use to greenhouse gas emissions to pesticides. These impacts include:
- Climate Change: The food and farming sector in industrialized countries accounts for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. The livestock sector alone is responsible for 14.5 percent of global emissions: 45 percent of that from feed production and processing, 39 percent from methane release from ruminants and 10 percent from the storage and management of manure. In fact, 20 top livestock companies together emit more than Germany, the UK or France.
- Land Use Change: Meat and milk require more land than any other consumer product, and 77 percent of agricultural land is used for either livestock or livestock feed. This means that the expansion of livestock agriculture is a major driver of land conflicts that displace Indigenous and traditional communities. The conversion of land into cattle pasture drives at least two-thirds of deforestation in the Amazon region, for example.
- Public Health: The coronavirus pandemic has drawn attention to the dangers of zoonotic diseases, diseases that pass from animals to humans. Almost 75 percent of these diseases can be traced to wildlife, and the land grabs of the meat and dairy industry increase the chance that humans will encounter new zoonotic diseases as habitat is destroyed. The rampant use of antibiotics in agriculture also increases the risks that bacteria will evolve to resist these drugs. Already, drug-resistant bacteria kill 700,000 people a year, yet 73 percent of the antibiotics used worldwide are used on animals.
Despite these and many other consequences, both meat consumption and meat production are on the rise. Meat consumption has more than doubled in 20 years, and is expected to rise another 13 percent by 2028. Meat production has also been trending upwards. In the 1970s, it stood at one third of current levels, though it declined slightly in 2019 because of an outbreak of African swine fever.
The increase in production has been enabled by many of the things that make that production so problematic: more and more animals are kept in feedlots instead of pastures. This requires their feed to be grown somewhere else, gobbling up more land. Further, such crowding is only possible with antibiotics to prevent infections from spreading in close quarters.
With all of this evidence, the report argued that reducing meat consumption in industrial countries is a case of "listening to the science," something world governments have yet to do seriously with regards to this issue.
"We are talking not about a lack of information, and politicians not acting because they don't know," the atlas' chief executive editor and head of the International Agricultural Policy Division at Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Dr. Christine Chemnitz said at the launch. "We are talking about a lack of political will to steer or transition the agricultural sector into a climate-friendly and biodiversity-friendly direction."
A Meat Atlas 2021 graphic summarizes meat's impact on the world. Bartz / Stockmar / CC BY 4.0
Race to the Bottom
One clear indication we are headed in the wrong direction, Chemnitz noted, is the sheer numbers of animals slaughtered: 75 billion a year as of 2019.
But this death translates directly into profits for the largest meat and dairy companies, Shefali Sharma, one of the report authors and director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) European office, said at the launch.
Sharma explained that the top companies are so powerful that they can set the prices they pay to producers at below the cost of production, and governments will either directly or indirectly subsidize the difference.
This creates a "race to the bottom of cheap prices, more animals, more production, more profits," she said.
However, there is a way up and out. Sharma recommended a three-prong strategy of:
- Redirecting resources away from industrial agriculture and towards more regenerative approaches.
- Regulating companies and holding them responsible for the emissions generated by their supply chains.
- Regenerating by shifting to agroecology.
Agroecology means growing food in ways that respects natural limits while incorporating local and traditional knowledge, Stanka Becheva, a report contributor and Food and Agriculture Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, explained during the launch.
"It's really the only transformative framework which will help move the industrial... farming sector away from the concentration and the devastating impacts it has," she said.
She also called for a ban on factory farming; turning to more diversified mixed plant and animal farming solutions; ensuring fair prices for small-scale, sustainable farmers; and changing diets to emphasize fresh, local, plant-based food.
A Strong Statement
One hopeful indicator cited by the report is the shifting attitudes of young people. The atlas highlighted a representative survey conducted by the University of Göttingen in Germany of young adults between 15 and 29 years old. It found that nearly 13 percent of them were either vegan or vegetarian, more than double the percentage of the overall German population. A further approximately 25 percent considered themselves flexitarians and only ate meat every so often.
But what was especially striking to Chemnitz was the motivation behind these decisions.
"One thing young people made really clear is that they see their reduced meat consumption as a political statement," she said.
Their decision was not based on taste or health, but opposition to how the current meat industry operates.
The survey found that 75 percent of the vegan and nearly 50 percent of the vegetarian respondents saw themselves as part of the climate movement. Moreover, young people were in favor of government policies directed at creating a more sustainable food system. More than 70 percent of them thought the German government should encourage people to eat a climate-friendly diet and make sure food is produced in an environmentally friendly way.
"This is a strong statement," Chemnitz said, "and it's a strong call for our government to get active."
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