Democrats have long been frustrated with climate change deniers. This frustration was poignantly expressed by Sen. Bernie Sanders during the confirmation hearing for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While Pruitt’s hesitance to admit a human impact on climate change — despite the scientific evidence to support that claim — is ignorant, Sanders and other politicians in support of reducing human impact on climate change fall into the same trap as Pruitt.
Although animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change, it is disregarded in almost all discussions about the issue. The World Bank reports that animal agriculture is responsible for 51 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in a report, claimed that the animal agriculture industry accounted for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even using the Food and Agriculture Organization’s estimate, animal agriculture still accounted for 5 percent more of the greenhouse gas emissions than combined exhaust from all transportation, as estimated by the EPA.
Not only is animal agriculture theorized to be responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions, but it is the key contributor to the emission of methane, which has a global warming potential of 28-36 times that of carbon dioxide. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture is also responsible for 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas 265-298 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Yet, animal agriculture is still left out of key conversations about policies that should be taken to reduce the human impact on climate change.
This elimination of animal agriculture from the rhetoric used when discussing climate change is alarming. It is barely addressed on the EPA’s website, and the information is not widespread. It may seem comforting on the surface level that politicians like Sanders are trying to make climate change an important issue and fighting for a competent head of the EPA, but the failure of these politicians to abide by their own suggestion to listen to the science is perilous.
Addressing fossil fuels and the transportation industry solely when discussing climate change helps reform only one piece of the puzzle, and not even the largest piece. According to environmental researcher and author Dr. Richard Oppenlander, even without fossil fuels we will exceed our carbon dioxide limit by 2030 just from raising animals. Why not discuss the whole issue, or at the very least the largest contributor?
Eliminating — or greatly reducing — animal agriculture is the only sustainable option we have. By following a plant-based diet, an individual cuts their carbon footprint by 50 percent. After one year of following a plant-based diet, a single person saves 7,300 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Each individual has the right to choose whether or not to contribute to the animal agriculture industry’s destruction through his or her diet. But it is absurd for our government to continue to ignore the impact this industry has on climate change.
Rebecca Klar is a senior majoring in English.