I think we can agree that climate change is the biggest threat to life on Earth that we’ve ever faced. While large-scale and systemic actions by governments and global corporations need to be taken to combat climate change and ward off its worst effects, there are things that individuals can do that could have a big impact. Here are two: eliminate or cut back on air travel, as well as consuming meat and dairy.
Cattle contribute large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere. One cow releases between 70 and 120 kilograms of methane per year. Since methane has a negative impact on the environment that is 23 times higher than the effect of carbon dioxide, the methane release of one cow equals on average about 2,300 kilograms of carbon dioxide. A Japanese study showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a global warming potential equal to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
Air travel is also responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions. The International Air Transport Association forecasted emissions for airlines to grow to 897 million tons in 2018. This means that if an individual takes one round-trip flight between New York and California, they will generate about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases your car emits over an entire year. According to the World Bank, the average American generates about 16.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. A round-trip flight from New York to San Francisco emits about .9 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person — about one-eighteenth of a typical American’s carbon emissions for an entire year.
Yes, you’re one individual. But if millions decided to cut back on meat consumption and airline travel, imagine what an impact that would have.