Reduction in animal products is the only way to combat climate change

According to the Met office, 2015 will see global temperatures rise more than one degree above pre industrial levels. Based on data from January to September of this year, temperatures are now 1.2 degrees above the pre industrial average, making 2015 the first year to breach the important one degree mark. This increase means we are now halfway to the 2 degree rise, which is considered by experts as the gateway to dangerous warming. The United Nations Conference on Climate Change due to be held in Paris later this month will attempt to address concerns about temperatures which continue to rise, and take decisions on what more can be done to slow the pace of climate change.

The trouble with climate change is that it is such a slow burning problem (if you’ll pardon the pun) with such disastrous consequences. A 1 degree rise, although catastrophic for the environment, doesn’t represent a huge change in anyone’s daily life, making us so much less inclined to actually do anything about it. We have been going about dealing with climate change in completely the wrong way. Up until now, there has been the false message that small changes will be effective if everyone makes them, and as a consequence we are not doing anywhere near enough. If Guardian readers remember to recycle all their supplements, we should be fine folks!

Whilst every little helps, turning the tap off while you brush your teeth is very much too little, too late. If we want to make a serious move to tackle climate change we need to assess our lifestyles and look at what we can easily change that will have a big effect. The most obvious change we can make in our daily lives is to cut back on our use of animal products. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of the release of greenhouse gases worldwide, which is more than all the cars, lorries, ships and planes in the world put together. Vegetarianism and veganism are no longer faddy diets, but the most viable way we in the western world have of making a real change. And that doesn’t necessarily mean we all have to go completely plant based. As a vegetarian living in France, I’m very aware that avoiding animal products isn’t always an option, especially in social situations. What we can do, however, is make a conscious effort to cut back on the amount we eat and pay attention to where the products are sourced. Vote with your money.

Obviously, as with everything, this is only a solution if the majority commit to it. As early as 2007 the Government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was recommending eating less meat as one of the ‘key environmental behaviour changes’ that significantly benefit the planet. What the current government, and governments from around the world, must aim to do in Paris at the end of this month is ensure that eating less meat and using renewable energy sources are the cheap and easy option, not the fashionable option. Making the environmentally friendly choices more attractive to the majority is the only way to guarantee that people change their lifestyles permanently.

Image: A. Sparrow

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