First, if climate change continues to worsen, then we may have less to give thanks for in the coming years, as climate change imperils agricultural production. Climate change also exposes hundreds of American cities – including New York, Miami, and Los Angeles – to catastrophic flooding, and we may no longer be able to control outcomes if we don't reduce greenhouse gas significantly in our atmosphere by 2017 and at latest 2020.
But while politicians have worked since 1990 to implement international policies on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions have risen shockingly by 61% from 1990 to 2013.
At the same time, as much as 51% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to animals raised for food. This means that there’s a huge opportunity available by making turkey this Thanksgiving our last meal to feature an animal-based food until at least Thanksgiving 2015.
In other words, on Thanksgiving this year, we should consider replacing animal-based foods with climate-friendly meat, milk, and “egg” products made from grains, legumes, and nuts, such as peas, soybeans, and almonds (or with whole grains, legumes and nuts). These are climate-friendly foods because any foods that come directly from plants are generally responsible for much less greenhouse gas emissions than any animal-based foods.
Frankly, it's too late to reverse climate change by replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with renewable energy infrastructure. To implement that strategy at the necessary scale, it’s estimated we’ll need 36 trillion dollars and 20 years, long past the time by which it’s said we must reduce greenhouse gas significantly.
In other words, addressing climate change by replacing animal-based foods with alternatives may be the only pragmatic way to reverse climate change before it’s too late.
Dr. Robert Goodland, former lead environmental advisor at the World Bank, has explained how we can reduce atmospheric carbon to a safe level by replacing between 50 and 85% of today’s animal-based foods with foods made from plants.
No other pragmatic action to reduce greenhouse gas significantly by 2017 or 2020 as needed has even been proposed.
Some people will predictably doubt whether large-scale switching from animal-based foods to plant-based ones can really happen by 2017 or 2020. But it surely can happen if one thinks of animal-based foods as being obsolete in our modern age of climate change.
For example, tube TVs and horse-drawn carriages were widely loved in their heydays – yet once they were perceived as obsolete, they were completely replaced within a few years by automobiles and digital TVs.
The reason why changing our foods may be only pragmatic way to reverse climate change comes from the fact that the only known way to draw down atmospheric carbon on a large scale in a relatively short timeframe is by growing a large number of trees. In fact, raising animals for food is estimated to occupy 45% percent of all land on earth, and most of that land was once forested – and it can be reforested, allowing trees to draw down carbon from our atmosphere on a massive scale.
If replacing animal-based foods with better alternatives because of greenhouse gas emissions sounds like a radical proposition, in fact it was recently proposed by none other than Bill Gates. Also, the famous film producer James Cameron has explained how he has adopted this proposition personally.
So this Thanksgiving, let’s think about how eating turkey on this one day alone might actually save our world.