How to be more green on Earth Day than Donald, Ted, Hillary, or Bernie

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Climate change will likely become irreversible by 2020;  so this Friday’s Earth Day may be the last one when Americans can still think about voting for a president under whom climate change might be reversed before it’s too late.

The top priority among environmental issues on Earth Day is climate change, and that’s because a rise in sea levels due to climate change imperils the future of major cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Americans can start acting on Earth Day to stop climate change before it’s too late – even though none of the main presidential contenders has shown voters any realistic plan to reverse climate change.

Among the main contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the only ones who have promised to do anything significant about climate change.  But they have proposed only that some fossil fuel infrastructure be replaced with renewable energy.

Developing renewable energy was the strategy adopted by more than 180 countries to stop climate change more than 20 years ago under the Kyoto Protocol.  Yet in the ensuing years, greenhouse gas emissions rose by more than 60 percent.

Now, replacing enough fossil fuel infrastructure to reverse climate change is projected to take long past the projected tipping point of 2020.  Specifically, it is estimated to take at least $36 trillion and 20 years – which would take us at least to the year 2036 (long past 2020).

In people’s search for ways to combat climate change, they have generally overlooked a part of their lives that doesn’t depend much on fossil fuel infrastructure – and that’s our food choices, which need not wait to be changed until 2035, or even 2020.

People can change their food choices literally overnight.  That’s a key reason why replacing animal-based foods with better alternatives is said to be the only pragmatic way to start reversing climate change by 2020 as needed.

It is widely recognized that replacing animal-based foods with plant-based ones can have a large positive effect on climate change.  Indeed, plant-based foods offer two major benefits:  They not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they also free up land on which we can grow more trees.

In fact, 45 percent of all land on earth is said to be used for livestock production, according to livestock experts.  Most of that land was once forested and could again grow trees, which could then draw down excess carbon from our atmosphere.

Counting all relevant factors, environmental specialists have estimated that livestock products could be responsible for at least half of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.  That estimate has been cited by many prominent sources, including Bill Gates, the New York Times, and a UN General Assembly report.

While it is practically impossible to replace fossil fuel infrastructure quickly, there is a long and strong track record of developing and marketing new food products quickly to respond to new scientific findings.

Many different types of plant-based meats, milk products, and egg-like products are now available, made from grains, legumes, and nuts – such as peas, soybeans, and almonds – and they can be homemade too.

Still, people often look to politicians for ways to stop climate change.  That’s because it has been generally assumed that climate change can be addressed only with new policy, rather than through choices made in the food industry.

However, a business case for plant-based foods to reverse climate change appears to be gaining steam, even subscribed to by Bill Gates.  This reflects the cost of producing the vast amounts of crops needed to feed animals raised for food.  It takes more than two pounds of crops – in fact, up to 6 pounds – to produce one pound of animal-based meat.

The biggest challenge may be to get people to try the latest vegan products and taste how delicious they can be.  Yet if climate change continues to disrupt agriculture all over the world, then alternatives to animal-based foods may not even be much of a choice in the long run.

Instead of waiting until choices are more limited, people can make new food choices starting on Earth Day to reverse climate change before it’s too late.

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