What if your next lunch was served with side order of responsibility? Imagine that, in addition to your burger, you have to take home all of the carbon dioxide that was released by producing that burger. Hopefully they have those gigantic, 32-ounce cups of soda. And it would be good thing if you came with a trailer. How else will you bring home your 2,500 mega-cups of CO2?
Even then. What does a body do with all that CO2? If you’re thinking about just letting it out into the air, consider this: Only 0.04 % of the air around you is carbon dioxide. Those cups in the trailer that are now your responsibility are filled with 100% CO2.
Climate scientists have tried desperately to warn us that letting CO2 levels rise above 430 parts per million (ppm) will tip us into catastrophic climate change. Right now, we are at 415 ppm. So as a planet, we have only 15 ppm to play with.
What does 15 ppm mean? One way to think of it is that releasing 15 cups of CO2 to the atmosphere will push a million cups of the atmosphere past the tipping point. But we have a trailer full of cups. Those 2,500 quarts of CO2 will push 170,000,000 extra-large soda cups of our atmosphere past that limit, roughly the capacity of a natural gas tanker ship. If we keep it up, with a burger a day for just three weeks, we will push an entire Superdome full of air into the red zone, just to absorb the damage from our lunch.
But we have choices. And we can make a difference. Everything we do has an impact, everything we eat, drink, our travel, what we buy. All of it . Until we convert to a non-carbon-based economy, everything we eat and do releases CO2 in the air. But we can make better choices, and worse choices. For example, chicken has about one-sixth the carbon footprint of beef. A vegan burger will eliminate 95% of those cups of CO2 and save most of the air in that Superdome for our kids.
Future blog post will dive deeper into the impact of dietary alternatives, but, for now, just know that our love of beef has a devastating impact on the planet. Every choice we make matters. Wise choices can heal the planet.