Why How We Eat Affects Our World

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How What We Eat Affects Our Climate

It's not only how we choose to travel or heat our homes that determines our carbon footprint. What we eat also has a climate impact. Understanding the resources that go into producing our meals can make us more aware of the relationship between food and climate change, and help us make better choices. There are several factors that contribute to food's climate impact, including: how low on the food chain it is, how much energy is used to produce it and how far it has to travel before it gets to the table. Meat production is a major contributor to climate change. It is estimated that livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land use and occupies 30 percent of the land surface of the planet. Because of their sheer numbers, livestock produce a considerable volume of greenhouse gases (such as methane and nitrous oxide) that contribute to climate change. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gases. Other agricultural practices can impact the climate. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are widely used in agriculture, and are often made from fossil fuels. Manufacturing and transporting these chemicals uses significant quantities of energy and produces greenhouse gases. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that chemical farming uses considerably more energy per unit of production than organic farms, which do not use these chemical inputs. In addition, the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in soils produces nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is approximately 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Organic farms, on the other hand, which rely on natural manure and compost for fertilizer, store much more carbon in the soil, keeping it out of the…...

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