"The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale," said "Livestock’s Long Shadow," the report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
According to the report, nearly one-fifth of all global warming-causing emissions come from animal agriculture, more than the cumulative impact of all the transportation in the world. This effect occurs because animal wastes and digestion produce methane and nitrous oxide gas, which have 23 and 296 times the heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide, respectively. Animal agriculture produces 65 percent of the world's nitrous oxide from human-related sources and 37 percent of the methane.
The detrimental effects of animal agriculture on the world's climate are not limited to greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty percent of the world's total land surface is devoted to animal agriculture, and 70 percent of its arable land. The livestock industry is also a leading cause of deforestation; 70 percent of former Amazon Rainforest lands are currently devoted to animal agriculture. Because trees and other plants remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, this deforestation exacerbates the pace of global warming.
"The frequent consumption of meat is not compatible with environmental stewardship," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and author of "How to End Cruelty to People, Animals and Nature, and Create a World without War and Environmental Destruction."
"Planet Earth will simply not support the mass consumption of meat. ... If we wish to protect our planet and live in an environmentally sustainable way, we must teach people how to emphasize plant-based diets, which are also far healthier for their bodies than meat-based diets," he said.