What Global Warming Means

The impact of global warming is not a vague future threat; it is already upon us. Some computer models used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict the Arctic will be virtually ice free by 2070. Other computer models suggest that the year of an ice-free Arctic summer could come as early as 2030 or 2040. [1]

Virtually ice-free. That’s the UN panel — and they’re saying it’s only 23 to 63 years away.

The loss of that massive ice sheet will have enormous repercussions for the Earth’s weather. Already we see news of the rate at which living beings are affected by deforestation and climate change — and these are interrelated, as forests absorb excess CO2 and give oxygen. According to Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, barring some dramatic change, half of Earth’s plant and animal species will likely be extinct by 2100.

In regions where people lack stability to deal with global warming, climate change will escalate conflicts, which in turn will leave communities still less able to cope, and will put more pressure on free-living animals, who are usually seen as expendable in times of crisis.

Recommended Action for Refuges, Rescue Groups, Advocates, and Everyone Else

We at Friends of Animals regularly discuss climate at churches and ethical societies, colleges, bookshops, library talks, and events sponsored by vegetarian and community-based animal-advocacy groups. At some of these events we demonstrate vegan food preparation. We have even had reports from “dedicated South African meat-eaters” who have enjoyed our vegan cookbook and written up a positive review in order to spread the word.

We note that human birth rates are a critical factor, and should be approached not as a matter of barring migration from one region to another, but in terms of global population.

Across the world we human apes have more births each hour than the total existing population of chimpanzees and gorillas.

There are now 6.6 billion of us, and, as Gwynne Dyer writes, “Not only is the global population continuing to grow – about an extra Turkey or Vietnam every year – but as Asian economies race ahead, more people in those populous countries are starting to eat more meat.” [2]

We who identify ourselves as part of the advocacy or conservation communities have a particular responsibility to model a completely different way of living on this planet.

To really address the root causes of the challenges we face in our daily work, sanctuaries and advocacy groups should confront global warming by advancing positions to address it.

It has long seemed incongruous for refuges to shelter some animals yet condone the eating of other animals. It has also seemed somehow hollow to have advocates from our more affluent populations argue against bushmeat if we ourselves are unwilling to renounce a taste for flesh.

Given the documented effects of global warming, and the impact of animal agribusiness in habitat loss, chemical use, and greenhouse gas emission, [3] there is now an obvious urgency as well as an ethical responsibility for shelters and advocacy groups to take an affirmative and consistent position in support of a plant-based diet.


[1] Steve Connor, Scientists Warn Arctic Sea Ice Is Melting at Its Fastest Rate Since Records Began” ““ The Independent (15 Aug. 2007).

[2] Gwynne Dyer: “Biofuel Mania Ends Days of Cheap Food” ““ New Zealand Herald (10 Jul. 2007).

[3] See Eating for Six Billion? Culinary Activism for a Healthier Planet: