Can a Climate Catastrophe Be Prevented?
Food is Climate: A Response To Al Gore, Bill Gates, Paul Hawken, and the Conventional Narrative On Climate Change
Vivid Thoughts Press
2021; $10.95; Kindle copy, $5.95
Reviewed by Richard H. Schwartz
Every once in a while there is a book, such as Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, Diet For a New America by John Robbins, and Diet For a Small Planet by Francis Moore Lappe, that has the potential of changing society’s thinking on an important issue. Such a book is Food Is Climate: A Response To Al Gore, Bill Gates, Paul Hawken, and the Conventional Narrative On Climate Change by Glen Merzer, because it provides a way to avert the looming climate catastrophe.
The book has been published at a very important time, as climate threats are becoming more and more evident. June 2021 was the hottest June in recorded history and July 21 was the hottest month ever recorded. This year may be the hottest ever and all 21 years this century are among the top 22 hottest years. Within a very short period there have been many heatwaves, some involving record temperatures, severe floods in Western Europe, China, India, Bangladesh, and parts of the US, and severe wildfires in much of the Western US, Greece, and even Siberia. A report by the highly respected UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written by 234 climate experts from 60 countries ,indicated that increasingly devastating weather is very likely.
Two factors that are extremely worrisome are (1) while all the recent severe climate events have occurred at a time when the global temperature has risen about 1.1 degrees Celsius (about two degrees Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial revolution, climate experts project that this increase will be at least three degrees Celsius by the end of this century, triggering far worse climate events, and (2) climate experts fear that self-reinforcing positive feedback loops (vicious cycles) could result in an irreversible tipping point when climate spins out of control, with catastrophic results.
Merzer argues cogently that the best and really only way to avert a climate catastrophe is through a societal shift to plant-based and preferably vegan diets. Not only would this reduce the emissions from cows and other farmed animals of huge amounts of methane, which is up to 120 times as potent as CO2 per unit weight in causing climate change, but it would also free up the 34% of the world’s ice-free land, an area greater than the areas of China, the US, Australia, and the European Union combined, that is currently being used to graze and grow feed crops for animals. That land could be used for planting trees, which would absorb and store huge amounts of the atmospheric CO2, significantly reducing climate threats
Merzer points out that there used to be six trillion trees in the world, but due to industrialism, population increases, intensive agriculture, and other factors, there are now only about three trillion. He stresses that if the world could get back to even four trillion trees, it would be able to annually absorb half of the greenhouse gas emissions.
Another important factor that Merzer emphasizes is that the world’s oceans are now being overfished and climate experts are warning that they might be almost devoid of fish by 2048. If people stopped eating so much fish, the oceans would become cleaner and healthier, which would increase their ability to absorb CO2. In addition, nitrous oxides from chemical fertilizer used to help the growth of feed crops for animals are almost 300 times more potent per unit weight at heating the Earth than CO2, so reducing the need to grow these crops would be another important factor in reducing greenhouse gases. In addition, sharply reducing the consumption of meat could end the intentional burning of forests to create land for raising cattle, with all its negative environmental effects.
Taking all of the above factors into account, if animal-based agriculture was eliminated, it would, in effect, reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by from 51 to 87 percent.
Merzer is very critical of Al Gore, Bill Gates, and others who properly analyze the climate threats and commendably advocate for shifts to renewable energy sources and other positive steps, but fail to stress the urgency of shifts to vegan diets.
Among the many powerful, documented statements in the book are: “the transition to a global plant-based economy has the potential to sequester over 2000 Giga tons (Gt) of CO2 in regenerating soils and vegetation, returning atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to the “safe zone” of under 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 equivalent, while restoring the biodiversity of the planet and healing its climate” (page 33), and, “So when we attack the intertwined, primary causes of the climate emergency—livestock-related emissions, deforestation, and the plundering of the seas—we benefit in multiple ways (reducing emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon, and carbon dioxide; increasing carbon sequestration; protecting the soil; protecting species; protecting the oceans; protecting biodiversity and life itself).’ (page 49)
In summary, the world is rapidly approaching a climate catastrophe, and the major reduction in the consumption of animal products that Merzer’s book promotes provides a very effective way and the only way to avert that catastrophe.
To help people shift to healthier, delicious plant-based diets, Merzer provides vegan recipes, without oil or sugar, from some of America’s leading chefs at the end of his very readable book.
If you want to leave a decent, habitable world for future generations, I urge you to read the book and share its message widely, because