How the collapse of the Soviet Union significantly reduced CO2 emissions
The livestock industry of the Soviet Union was not only productive in its sector, but it also contributed a large share of greenhouse gases (GHG). Therefore, when the URRS fell, so did its polluting emissions. Such is the conclusion reached by a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters.
The decrease was not small, in total, according to the authors of the research, 7.61 gigatons were reduced (one gigaton is equivalent to 1,000 million tons) of GHG between 1996 and 2011, which is equivalent to a quarter of the emissions of CO2 caused by Amazonian deforestation in those same 20 years.
Which was the reason?
The Soviet Union became the main consumer of beef. In 1985, its inhabitants ingested per person 32 kg per year, this is 300% more than the world average.
To supply the huge demand, the country had to import food from its rival, USA, because it was not enough with the millions of hectares devoted to the production of forage suitably doped with tons of highly polluting synthetic fertilizers.
The centralized economy system of Soviet communism was a machine to emit the most important GHGs, methane, CO2 and nitrous oxide.
But in 1991, after the collapse, everything changed. Then, the State could no longer subsidize the grain and it did not have the foreign currency to buy it from the United States. About 62 million hectares of crops, in space for forage, were abandoned.
The lands that previously emitted gases, particularly nitrogen from fertilizers, now capture CO2 and, as natural vegetation regains ground, that capture capacity increases.
In addition, the crisis made change the rigid food habits of citizens, who went from eating 32 kg to only 14.3 kg in 2000, as determined by the team of German and Russian researchers who participated in the study.
As a result of all this, they were reduced by 7.61 gigatonnes. However, today, Russia continues to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, only now it does so from outside the home.
From the Soviet Union that is a net importer of grain in the 1980s, Russia has become the second largest importer of meat in the world, after the United States. The majority of meat products, up to 80% of the beef, are imported from Latin America. The consequence is deforestation in favor of livestock on American soil.