Veganism: Dr Potter advises on switching to plant-based diet
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According to measurements taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US, global methane emissions recently reached 1,900 parts per billion (ppb) of Earth’s atmosphere. This figure is far exceeding the approximately 700 ppb methane concentration present before the industrial revolution.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, however, it only lasts around nine years in the air.
This makes it one of the most important gases to tackle in order to see immediate benefits to the Earth’s climate.
Methane levels in the atmosphere had stabilised between the 1990s and 2007, however, it has accelerated steeply over the next decade.
Agriculture is the largest overall contributor to methane emissions, responsible for 150 million metric tonnes a year.
According to Euan Nisbet, Professor of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway University of London, biogenic methane, made by microbes in rotting vegetation or in cow stomachs, is relatively rich in carbon-12, while methane from fossil fuels and fires has comparatively more carbon-13.
He said: “For two centuries, rapidly expanding gas, coal and oil industries steadily drove atmospheric methane richer in carbon-13.
“Since 2007, that trend has reversed, and the proportion of carbon-13 in atmospheric methane has decreased.
“Although fossil fuel emissions may still be growing, soaring methane emissions are now primarily the result of faster-growing biogenic sources.”
Professor Nisbet warned that cows are a major source of methane, describing them as “walking wetlands”.
He said: “Ruminants produce nearly as much methane as fossil fuel emissions, roughly 115 million metric tons of annually.
“Globally, about two-thirds of farmland is animal pasture.”
“Growing agricultural emissions are linked to rapid human population growth and the increasing global demand for a meat-rich diet.”
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Due to the impact that the meat industry is having on methane emissions and overall global warming, many are calling for Britons to ditch meat and opt for vegan foods instead.
PETA, the animal advocacy group said: “Many conscientious people are trying to help combat the climate crisis by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs, but these measures simply aren’t enough.
“If you’re serious about protecting the environment, the most important thing that you can do is stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy products.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shown that animal agriculture is globally the single largest source of methane emissions and that, pound for pound, methane is more than 25 times as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere.”
Veganism is gaining steadily in the UK, with a YouGov poll showing that 8% of Brits are now following a plant-based diet.
This number is a threefold jump from 2019 when only 2% of people were thought to be vegan.
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