I argue that EAA’s [now Animal Charity Evaluators] Top Charities are not only efficient at preventing the suffering of animals on farms, but also good candidates among the best charities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change presents a difficult challenge, as well as a tremendous moral responsibility, to those concerned about the future of our planet. Not only is it expected to cause the extinction of a third of all species within the next forty years, but it has been estimated to give our own species a one in ten chance of extinction in the next century.
The magnitude of this threat means that we need to take climate change seriously. With a trillion sentient beings on our planet, even a slight reduction in extinction risk could potentially save a large quantity (and presumably quality) of lives. Furthermore, if life cannot recover from the imminent disasters caused by climate change, then a truly mind-boggling cost will have been incurred, for a tremendous number of beings will never exist.
It’s recognized that one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions is animal agriculture – but how effective are EAA’s Top Charities at reducing the risk of climate change?
Online ads undertaken by The Humane League and Vegan Outreach have been estimated to create one vegetarian-year (i.e. one person going vegetarian for one year) for about $11. A vegetarian prevents about 1.5 metric tons of C02-equivalent emissions per year. meaning that these ads decrease emissions at an approximate cost of $7.40 per ton.
How does that stack up against conventional environmental charities? Several organizations allow you to purchase “carbon offsets”, which are investments in alternative energy and carbon “sinks” like trees, which will decrease CO2 emissions by a given amount. Carbonfund sells offsets at the cost of $10/ton and Terrapass sells them for around $13/ton.
So, even ignoring the animal welfare benefit of these charities and focusing solely on enivironmental impact, The Humane League and Vegan Outreach come out ahead of some mainstream “environmental” organizations!
There are a wide variety of charities/issues we can support, and much more research needs to be done to find the best one. But at least in the case of animals and environmentalism it appears that we might not have to choose: EAA’s Top Charities may be great across both categories.
1. Thomas, Chris D., Alison Cameron, Rhys E. Green, Michel Bakkenes, Linda J. Beaumont, Yvonne C. Collingham, Barend F. N. Erasmus, et al. “Extinction Risk from Climate Change.” Nature 427, no. 6970 (January 8, 2004): 145–148.
2. Bostrom, Nick. “Existential Risk Prevention as Global Priority.” Global Policy (forthcoming).
3. Tomasik, Brian. “How Many Wild Animals Are There?”, n.d.
4. Bostrom, Nick. “Astronomical Waste: The Opportunity Cost of Delayed
Technological Development.” Utilitas 15, no. 03 (2009): 308–.
5. Steinfeld, H., P. Gerber, T. D. Wassenaar, V. Castel, and C. de Haan.
Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. FAO, 2006.
6. Eshel, G., and P. A. Martin. “Diet, Energy, and Global Warming.”
Earth Interactions 10, no. 9 (2006): 1–17.