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Worried about climate change? Eat less meat.

Commentator Mark Bittman says industrial meat production accounts for at least one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions.

Everyone talks about the well-documented effects industrial meat production has on energy, water usage, and public health. We hear plenty about what treating animals like widgets does to our souls.

But one thing that's underplayed is the effect of industrial meat on climate change.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has estimated almost 20 percent of greenhouse gases are attributable to the raising of animals for food.

Some researchers claim the real number is more like 50 percent.

But the exact percentage doesn't matter. What does is that we don't take the role of livestock in climate change seriously enough.

Most proposed solutions focus on developing new forms of energy -- even though they can't be brought on line fast enough to avert what may be a coming catastrophe.

Adjusting our eating habits is a much easier fix.

Although Americans are eating somewhat less meat, it still amounts to something like 200 pounds a person every year.

If you believe that earth's natural resources are limitless, or that technology will one day fix climate change, I guess none of this worries you. But if you believe in dealing with reality, and want the planet to be a livable place for your kids, this is a big deal.

It's seldom that enormous problems have such simple solutions, but this is one that does. Yes, we want cleaner forms of energy and transportation. But don't look for those any time soon.

In the meantime, we can begin eating less meat. That's something each of us can do, with no technological advances. You've already changed your light bulbs; now, how about eating a salad?

About the author

Mark Bittman has been an avid home cook since 1968, a journalist for nearly as long (longer if you count his high school yearbook), and a professional food writer since 1980.

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