Globally, more than 72 billion chickens are slaughtered for meat each year. In the photo: A 6-week-old broiler chicken

The Looming Threat: Factory Farming's Role in Climate Disasters and the Urgent Need for a Just Transition


The year 2023 witnessed a relentless surge in climate extremes, with temperature records shattering across the globe.¹ Human activities, particularly the expansion of factory farming, stand as significant drivers of these escalating temperatures and the intensifying frequency and severity of climate-induced weather disasters, including droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, storms, and flooding.

As these catastrophic events wreak havoc on communities worldwide, it is crucial to recognize the disproportionate impact they have on the poorest and most vulnerable populations, particularly in Africa and Asia, despite their minimal contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs).

Factory Farming: A Climate Culprit

Factory farming, an industrial livestock production system characterized by intensive confinement and high-yield practices, stands as a major contributor to the climate crisis. Its energy-intensive nature, reliance on fossil fuel-based fertilizers, and deforestation contribute to the release of vast quantities of GHGEs into the atmosphere.

The energy demands of factory farming are substantial, encompassing the power required for lighting, ventilation, climate control, and feed processing. Additionally, the transportation of live animals and animal products across long distances further exacerbates the industry's energy consumption and associated GHGEs.

Fossil fuel-based fertilizers, heavily utilized in factory farming, contribute significantly to GHGEs. The production and application of these fertilizers release nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 300 times that of carbon dioxide.

Deforestation, often driven by the expansion of factory farming to accommodate increased feed production, compromises vital carbon sinks. Forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, playing a crucial role in regulating the climate. However, deforestation releases stored carbon back into the atmosphere, exacerbating the greenhouse effect.

The Disproportionate Impact on the Global South

The devastating impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed. The poorest and most vulnerable communities in the Global South, particularly in Africa and Asia, bear the brunt of climate-induced weather disasters despite contributing the smallest share of global GHGEs.

This disparity arises from several factors. Infrastructure in developing countries is often less resilient to climate shocks, rendering communities more susceptible to the damage caused by extreme weather events. Additionally, limited access to resources and financial support hinders the ability of these communities to adapt to and recover from climate disasters.

The Economic Toll of Climate Disasters

The economic costs of climate-induced weather disasters are staggering. Over a five-year period (2018-2022), for which weather attribution data is available, 13 climate-induced weather disasters resulted in economic losses exceeding $300 billion.

Three of the most costly weather-related disasters in 2022, attributed to climate change, include:

  • The Pakistan floods, with economic costs of at least $15 billion, with the cost attribution of factory farming emissions from the Global North estimated at least $0.64 billion.
  • The prolonged drought experienced by Kenya, which has resulted in economic losses of at least $1.5 billion, with the cost attribution of factory farmed emissions from the Global North, estimated to be responsible for at least $0.06 billion worth of these costs.
  • The India and Pakistan heatwave with economic losses of at least $157 billion, with the cost attribution of factory farming emissions from the Global North estimated at $6.71 billion.

The Urgency of Action

The continued support for the expansion of factory farming, if left unchecked, will inevitably contribute to a further escalation in global GHGEs and, consequently, an increase in the severity and frequency of climate-induced weather disasters disproportionately impacting the Global South.

By 2050, the economic costs of loss and damage associated with weather disasters globally could exceed $1 trillion every year, as the impacts of climate change intensify. Given that factory farming contributes 11% of total GHG emissions, the industry associated with them would be liable for over $100 billion of these estimated costs.

A Call for a Just Transition to Sustainable Livestock Production

The upcoming 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties (COP28) Summit, to be held in Dubai, presents a critical opportunity for world leaders to demonstrate a strong commitment to raising climate ambition and recognizing the urgent need to reduce factory farming emissions. Simultaneously, they must provide unwavering support to the countries most impacted by climate change, empowering them to adapt, enhance resilience, and reduce vulnerability to future climate-induced weather events.

In light of the alarming findings presented in this report, we urge governments and policymakers to adopt the following six key recommendations:

  1. Impose a moratorium on factory farming for the next ten years.
  2. Remove and redirect policy and subsidy support away from factory farming towards humane and sustainable livestock production.
  3. Prioritize support for countries in the Global South to promote

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