The environment affects every living thing in this world. Every species has had to adapt to a changing environment. However, humans are the first species to affect the environment. One of our biggest effects can be seen in the atmosphere. The average amount of carbon dioxide in ppm (parts per million) for the past 800,000 years is 230 (CO2 Now). As of April 2013, the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere is 398 ppm according to the Mauna Loa Observatory (CO2 Now). This increase is owed entirely to anthropogenic (resulting from human influence) reasons. The environment has always been a very balanced system that included element cycles and sinks for different compounds. An environmental sink is a natural container of different elements, such as a carbon sink, an example of which are the trees in forests. Human activities have caused an unbalance by displacing elements such as carbon and nitrogen. Human activity puts these elements in the atmosphere in the forms of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases are known as greenhouse gases (GHG) and absorb and emit heat in our atmosphere. So far, humanity has caused an average increase in global temperature of 0.8 °C, or 1.4 °F, through GHG’s, an effect which is known as global warming (“America's Climate Choices” 15). When people think of global warming their immediate thought turns to car emissions, which isn’t wrong, but most people overlook the emissions coming from the feeding and raising of livestock as part of the livestock sector. According to Livestock’s Long Shadow, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions related to livestock is 9% of the global total (Steinfeld 112). The amount of carbon dioxide attributed to light duty vehicles is 10% according to a study by the International Energy Agency (DeCicco et al. 2). Livestock may not be the number one source of greenhouse gases, but it is not a contributor that can be overlooked or underestimated. The livestock sector must be restricted in their production and the way to do this is to tax them more heavily for the pollution attributed to their products.
Animal agriculture has changed drastically in the United States. According to Verheul, 41% of the United States workforce was employed by the agricultural industry in 1900 and in 1930 the agricultural industry contributed 7.7 % to the nations gross domestic product (166). In the year 2000 the industry only employed 1.9% of the nations workforce and contributed 0.7% to the United States GDP (Verheul 166). The agricultural industry used to be run by family farms, allowing for competition and arguably better food. However, factory farms appeared in the 1940’s allowing for the mass production of poultry products (Verheul 166). Verheul also states that the amount of farms had decreased by 63% while the size of the average farm grew by 67% (166). The agriculture industry in the United States has become much more concentrated and much larger with emphasis on speed in raising, butchering, and selling livestock. This concentration and speed has led to huge outputs of many types of pollutants that affect the globe in adverse ways. Pollution from the livestock sector is divided into parts based on the stage and the pollutant. Raising livestock starts with the feed. In order to produce feed you need land, hectares of open land. You need millions of gallons of fresh water that has to be irrigated to the fields and you need fertilizer to make sure you have sufficient crop yield to make a profit. Once you have grown the feed, you can raise the livestock. You need land for containment and land to store the waste from the livestock. Lagoons are built to contain manure that contains antibiotics, pollutants, and pathogens that ultimately seep out through cracks in faulty construction or just produce toxins that pollute the air. Finally, the product, animal meat and poultry, must be transported to the consumer in