Need another reason to feel guilty about feeding your children that Happy Meal -- aside from the fat, the calories and that voice in your head asking why you can't be bothered to actually cook a well-balanced meal now and then? Rajendra Pachauri would like to offer you one. The head of the U.N.'s Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Pachauri on Monday urged people around the world to cut back on meat in order to combat climate change. "Give up meat for one day [per week] at least initially, and decrease it from there," Pachauri told Britain's Observer newspaper. "In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity." So, that addiction to pork and beef isn't just clogging your arteries; it's flame-broiling the earth, too.
By the numbers, Pachauri is absolutely right. In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions -- by comparison, all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. Much of livestock's contribution to global warming come from deforestation, as the growing demand for meat results in trees being cut down to make space for pasture or farmland to grow animal feed. Livestock takes up a lot of space -- nearly one-third of the earth's entire landmass. In Latin America, the FAO estimates that some 70% of former forest cover has been converted for grazing. Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they're alive -- and when they're burned or cut down, the greenhouse gas is released back into the atmosphere.