There Is No Planet B
Because of the increasingly dire warnings of climate experts that climate change may soon reach an irreversible tipping point, the significant increase in the frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, and other climate-related events, and the failure so far of governments and other institutions to make adequate changes to address the threats, many concerned people are trying to awaken others to the dangers with the statement that “There is no Planet B.” This article discusses the climate threats and how risks of a climate catastrophe can be greatly reduced.
It is essential that we recognize the very unfortunate truth that the world is rapidly approaching an unprecedented climate catastrophe. This is happening to such an extent that all of humanity will suffer greatly, unless major positive changes soon occur.
A major exaggeration? Unfortunately not. Please consider:
There is a very strong consensus, composed of 97% of climate experts, all the major science academies that have taken a position on the issue, and most importantly, over a thousand peer-reviewed articles in respected scientific journals, that climate change is largely caused by human activities and is a major threat to humanity.
Every decade since the 1970s has been hotter than the previous decade and the past eight years have been the hottest since at least 1880, when temperature records were first recorded worldwide. Glaciers, ice caps, and permafrost are rapidly melting, seas are rapidly rising, and lakes and rivers are drying up in many regions. There has also been a very significant increase in the frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, and other climate events.
Israel is especially threatened by climate change because the Mediterranean area is warming up much faster than the world average, the hotter and drier Middle East that climate experts are projecting makes instability, terrorism, and war more likely, and a rising Mediterranean Sea could inundate the coastal plain that contains much of Israel’s population and infrastructure.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization composed of climate experts from many countries, warned that “unprecedented changes” were needed by 2030 for the world to have a chance to avert a climate catastrophe. Despite that warning, atmospheric carbon dioxide has continued to increase, indicating that the world is still heading in the wrong direction with regard to climate change.
Because of many dire warnings, like the one above, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that the climate situation is a “Code Red for Humanity” and that “delay means death.”
As devastating as recent climate events have been, prospects for the future are even more frightening, for four very important reasons:
- While all the recent severe climate events have occurred at a time when the global temperature has risen about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees. Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial revolution, climate experts project that this will at least triple by the end of this century, triggering far worse climate events.
- While climate experts believe that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide is a threshold value to avert the worst effects of climate change, the world has reached 420 ppm and it is increasing at 2 – 3 ppm per year.
- Climate experts fear that self-reinforcing positive feedback loops (vicious cycles) could result in an irreversible tipping point such that global warming will rise uncontrollably, with catastrophic results. One example is that as the world gets hotter, more air conditioning will be used, meaning that more fossil fuel will be burned. This will release more greenhouse gases, heating the atmosphere even more, resulting in still more use of air conditioning, etc.
- Military experts are warning that there will likely be tens of millions of desperate refugees fleeing from severe heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, and other climate events, which will promote social and political instability, terrorism, and war. Severe droughts already caused major migrations that resulted in civil wars in both Sudan and Syria.
Because of the above factors, averting a climate catastrophe must become a central focus for civilization today. Every aspect of life should be considered in terms of reducing “carbon footprints.” Among the many positive steps that should be taken are shifting away from fossil fuels to solar, wind, and other renewable forms of energy; designing more efficient cars, lightbulbs, and other items; improving public transportation so that more people will use it; recycling; and composting.
However, as president emeritus of Jewish Veg and author of “Vegan Revolution: Saving Our. World, Revitalizing Judaism,” I want to stress that the main cause of climate change is animal-based diets for two very important reasons. First,
cows and other ruminants emit methane, a very potent greenhouse gas with up to 80 times the ability to heat up the planet as CO2, per unit weight. Even more importantly, over 40% of the world’s ice-free land, much of which was previously forested, is currently being used for grazing and raising feed crops for animals. It is estimated that the world had about six trillion trees, but now this number has been reduced by about half, largely to meet the needs of animal agriculture.The loss of many carbon-sequestering trees is a major cause of the rise in atmospheric CO2 from 285 parts per million (ppm)at the start of the industrial revolution to its current 420 ppm, well above the 350 ppm that climate experts think is a threshold value for climate sustainability.
Taking the possibility of planting many carbon-absorbing trees into account, systems engineer Sailesh Rao, PhD, argues in his peer-reviewed paper, “Animal Agriculture Is the Leading Cause of Climate Change,” published in the Journal of Ecological Society, that shifts toward vegan diets could, in effect, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases by at least 87%, greatly lessening climate threats.
Unfortunately, while we need more trees, fires are set daily in the Amazon rainforests and other areas to create additional land largely for the needs of animal-agriculture. The eating habits of the world’s people is leading us toward possible extinction,
Fortunately, it is much easier to be a vegan today because of the abundance of plant-based substitutes for meat and other animal products, some with the appearance, texture and taste so similar to that of the animal products that even long time meat-eaters can’t tell the difference. In addition, the fact that people are becoming increasingly aware that that animal-based diets and agriculture seriously contribute not only to climate change and other environmental threats, but also to heart disease, cancer, and other life threatening diseases, the very inefficient use of land, water, energy, and other natural resources, widespread hunger, and the massive mistreatment of animals, thereby seriously violating many basic Jewish and other religions’ teachings, should impel Jews and others to become vegans, or at least to sharply reduce their consumption of meat and other animal products.
Bottom line: we have a choice between a largely vegan world and a world filled with very frequent devastating climate events. It is essential that every step possible be used to reduce the consumption of meat and other animal products in order to have a chance to leave a decent, habitable world for future generations. There really is no Planet B.