Over 30 million Americans faced high-heat warnings this week as blistering temperatures cooked Texas, California, and most of the Pacific Northwest. This year, heat waves have become a near-weekly occurrence as the world battles an unprecedentedly long summer. But this trend is not surprising. Since the 1960s, heat wave rates have tripled, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, longer heat waves with significantly higher temperatures will define future summers unless immediate action is taken.
Heat waves worldwide continue to threaten human lives, wildlife, forests, and animal agriculture. This June, an early heat wave scorched Kansas killing 2,000 cows within the animal agriculture system, subsequently buried in a regional landfill.
The beef industry dominates most of Kansas’ agriculture sector, meaning that future heat waves can continue to threaten the safety of cows and the efficacy of food production. Currently, animal agriculture is responsible for 57 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, meaning it is necessary to reduce or eliminate meat and dairy production to prevent the climate crisis. Eliminating or reducing meat and dairy products from your diet could have a huge global impact if enough people choose to make the switch.
To Stop Climate Change, Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
This month, new research reveals that similar extreme heat wave events will increase by 30 percent in the coming years. The research authors attributed this increased frequency directly to greenhouse gas emissions, echoing the United Nations’ recent call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This study examined North America’s deadly June 2021 heatwave to better understand why heat waves continue to intensify.
“If appropriate measures are not taken, the occurrence probability of extreme heatwaves will increase and further impact the ecological balance, as well as sustainable social and economic development,” lead author Dr. Chunzai Wang said.
This April, the UN’s third IPCC report claimed that there is still time to combat climate change. The report states that the world must also slash methane emissions by 33 percent by 2030 to slow climate change – preventing heat waves and wildfires from worsening in the future.
Why Should You Go Plant-Based for the Planet?
There are many reasons to ditch meat and try to eat a more plant-forward diet. Here are just a few of the many ways going meatless can impact the environment:
- Waste from just 200 cows produces as much nitrogen as the sewage from a community of up to 10,000 humans, according to the USDA.
- Cows are responsible for 40 percent of global methane emissions.
- Methane has 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years it reaches the atmosphere.
- Plant-based diets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 61 percent.
- Drought in Kansas will lead farmers to toss 3.85 million bushels of crops this year.
- Meat and dairy products currently use 83 percent of total farmland, according to Guardian.
- Eating plant-based twice a week for a year is the equivalent of planting 14 billion trees by helping minimize land use and reversing deadly greenhouse gas emissions
- Eating plant-based for one day saves enough water to take 100 showers.
- Eating plant-based helps foster biodiversity and protect approximately 626 species from losing habitable areas.
- An Impossible Burger requires 78 times less land use to create than a conventional beef burger.
- Eating beef one to two times a week for a year contributes six to 30 times more missions than plant alternatives such as tofu.
Global Heatwaves Caused By Climate Change
Life-threatening temperatures are currently burning the entire planet. This May, India’s deadly heat wave is directly attributed to the climate crisis. A study revealed that the human-related contributions to global heating are directly responsible for the worsening heat waves.
India and Pakistan experienced their highest temperatures in 122 years and the study emphasizes that temperatures have only risen 1.2º C. The study authors explained that if temperatures rise to 2ºC, these heat waves will occur every five years.
“The most distressing thing is that the limits to adaptation are being breached for a large poor population of the region at the present level of global warming,” study co-author Dr. Fahad Saeed said. “One can imagine how bad it would be even for a 1.5C warmer world,” he said. “Any warming beyond 1.5C can pose an existential threat for vulnerable populations in the absence of a strong adaptation and mitigation action.”
Historic Heat Wave Sweeps Across Europe
Sweltering temperatures spread over Europe in a historically punishing heatwave that broke several records, including the hottest day ever recorded in British history. Reports claim that over 2,000 people in Spain and Portugal died due to heat-related causes, highlighting that climate change is unarguably here.
Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom – most without air conditioning – struggled to adapt to temperatures that soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 40º C). The heatwave inspired several climate activists and politicians to make calls for climate action that include limits on greenhouse gases and major reforms in the animal agriculture sector.
“This is not just summer,” Green French lawmaker Melanie Vogel wrote on Twitter. “It is just hell and will pretty soon become just the end of human life if we continue with our climate inaction.”
For more planet-related news, check out The Beet’s Environment articles.
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