Saturday, April 02, 2016

Vegeterian diet and emissions.


                                               Comments due by April 11, 2016
Eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on red and processed meat will make you healthier. That’s obvious enough. But as chickens and cows themselves eat food and burn off their own energy, meat is a also major driver of climate change. Going veggie can drastically reduce your carbon footprint.
This is all at a personal level. What about when you multiply such changes by 7 billion people, and factor in a growing population?
In our latest research, colleagues and I estimate that changes towards more plant-based diets in line with the WHO’s global dietary guidelinescould avert 5m-8m deaths per year by 2050. This represents a 6-10% reduction in global mortality.
Food-related greenhouse gas emissions would also be cut by more than two thirds. In all, these dietary changes would have a value to society of more than US$1 trillion – even as much as US$30 trillion. That’s up to a tenth of the likely global GDP in 2050. Our results are published in the journal PNAS.
Future projections of diets paint a grim picture. Fruit and vegetable consumption is expected to increase, but so is red meat consumption and the amount of calories eaten in general. Of the 105 world regions included in our study, fewer than a third are on course to meet dietary recommendations.
A bigger population, eating a worse diet, means that by 2050 food-related GHG emissions will take up half of the “emissions budget” the world has for limiting global warming to less than 2℃.
To see how dietary changes could avert such a doom and gloom scenario, we constructed four alternative diets and analysed their health and environmental impacts: one reference scenario based on projections of diets in 2050; a scenario based on global dietary guidelines which includes minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables, and limits to the amount of red meat, sugar, and total calories; and two vegetarian scenarios, one including eggs and dairy (lacto-ovo vegetarian), and the other completely plant-based (vegan).

Millions of avoidable deaths

We found that adoption of global dietary guidelines could result in 5.1m avoided deaths per year in 2050. Vegetarian and vegan diets could result in 7.3m and 8.1m avoided deaths respectively. About half of this is thanks to eating less red meat. The other half comes thanks to eating more fruit and veg, along with a reduction in total energy intake (and the associated decreases in obesity).
There are huge regional variations. About two thirds of the health benefits of dietary change are projected to occur in developing countries, in particular in East Asia and South Asia. But high-income countries closely follow, and the per-person benefits in developed countries could actually be twice as large as those in developing countries, as their relatively more imbalanced diets leave greater room for improvement.
Room for improvement. Lightspring / shutterstock
China would see the largest health benefits, with around 1.4m to 1.7m averted deaths per year. Cutting red meat and reducing general overconsumption would be the most important factor there and in other big beneficiaries such as the EU and the US. In India, however, up to a million deaths per year would be avoided largely thanks to eating more fruit and vegetables.
Russia and other Eastern European countries would see huge benefits per-person, in particular due to less red meat consumption. People in small island nations such as Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago would benefit due to reduced obesity.

Vegans vs climate change?

We estimated that adopting global dietary guidelines would cut food-related emissions by 29%. But even this still wouldn’t be enough to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions in line with the overall cutbacks necessary to keep global temperature increases below 2°C.
India could cut its emissions and save lives – at the same time. Christopher FynnCC BY
To seriously fight climate change, more plant-based diets will be needed. Our analysis shows if the world went vegetarian that cut in food-related emissions would rise to 63%. And if everyone turned vegan? A huge 70%.

What’s it worth?

Dietary changes would have huge economic benefits, leading to savings of US$700-1,000 billion per year globally in healthcare, unpaid informal care and lost working days. The value that society places on the reduced risk of dying could even be as high as 9-13% of global GDP, or US$20-$30 trillion. Avoided climate change damages from reduced food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as US$570 billion.
Putting a dollar value on good health and the environment is a sensitive issue. However, our results indicate that dietary changes could have large benefits to society, and the value of those benefits makes a strong case for healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.
The scale of the task is clearly enormous. Fruit and vegetable production and consumption would need to more than double in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia just to meet global dietary recommendations, whereas red meat consumption would need to be halved globally, and cut by two thirds in richer countries. We’d also need to tackle the key problem of overconsumption. It’s a lot to chew on.

18 comments:

Rowan Lanning said...

In demographic transition, as the death rate falls the birth rate will then follow - if a mostly or all vegetarian or vegan diet were to be adopted globally, there would be that issue of over consumption and population boom, but i expect only to a certain extent. The environmental footprint of the animal agriculture industry is immense, and the amount of land it uses is equally gigantic. The only issue that I see with this is that of corporate greed, the classic tale in the string of really beneficial answers to climate change that are sitting in front of our noses that are never acted upon. I wonder how this article relates now, seeing as how we have hit the previously agreed upon goal of below 2* C in global temperature increases? Would the reduction in red meat be sufficient enough in a post 2* world to reverse damages, curb them or have no effect? With the increase in delicious alternative vegan meats and other products, I strongly suspect that if the market for alternative meat sources became bigger, with larger incentives for a wider market to developing countries and a lower price tag for lower income families, the shift to vegetarianism isn't too far fetched.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a pressing issue. I think going vegetarian (or simply consuming less meat) is admirable. I've read before how much the meat business contributes to climate change and the direct greenhouse gas emissions. There is almost an expectation of meat in the minds of many people - that it should be in every meal. Perhaps that's the mindset that needs to change. Society doesn't need to stop consuming meat altogether - we just need to consume less of it. Nor should there be government subsidies for meat.
Carl Wojciechowski

Christina Marciante said...

I agree with the points in this article, but how would we be able to implement more fruit and vegetable consumption and less red meat consumption? People in the United States know how bad red meat is for them, but they still continue to eat it. I think the only way is to increase the price of unhealthy food and decrease the price of healthy foods. This article didn't even touch on all the processed packaged food that we consume. I don't know if I could ever give up eating red meat, but I want to start eating less processed packaged foods. The food distribution in the world is very uneven. As I was reading this article, I was thinking about all those shows we have on television about obesity and losing weight. In the United States we over-eat, while in other countries people are starving. Some people in our own country are hungry too. How will we help these people out? I was also thinking about how some people go to the gym just so they could lose weight or not feel guilty about all the bad foods hat they eat. People aren't all too concerned about their health.
Christina Marciante

Brian Frank said...

The topic of food and what exactly we should be eating has been an interesting topic. I've seen it stated by the Guardian, that some argue meat production creates more emissions than that of automobiles and that we do not have to abandon cars when we can cut red meat out of our diets and possibly lead healthier lives. I completely agree with what this blog post contains because we would be doing more than just reducing carbon emissions but becoming healthier as well. Agricultural corporations treat the animals horribly and the livestock never get the chance to graise or be free but animal cruelty isnt the only worry. "Factory farms yield a relatively small amount of meat, dairy, and eggs for this input, and in return produce staggering quantities of waste and greenhouse gases, polluting our land, air, and water and contributing to climate change." This was a statement made by the Farm Sanctuary and it draws a parallel to the blog for not only are we creating huge amounts of waste we are depleting our planet of resources by using them towards something we do not necessarly need at such a huge magnitude.

Johnny Lopez said...

This was one of the first topics I came across during the start of my Environmental Studies minor. In one of my first courses (Animals & Society), we had to go vegetarian for one week. At first, I assumed it would be a difficult task, but after the week ended, I found it to be much easier than I expected. Currently, I still eat meat, but at a very low-consumption, ranging from once or twice a week. Furthermore, the health benefits would be great for the general public. As most Americans are aware, there is a raging obesity problem, especially targeting young children in elementary/middle school. This new string of obesity cases are causing young children to develop health issues like: hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol. Eating a more plant-based diet would also benefit the environment and the mass increase of animal grazing. Also, this would allow the meat companies to be more "open" to animal care treatment and regulations. This could potentially benefit any runoffs that damage nearby drinking wells. Not only are we responsible for caring for the planet, we are obligated to care for the inhabitants (including both human and non-human animals). Unfortunately, we have failed in all three aspects.

Megan Brown said...

The topic of food and vegetarianism is something that is very interesting to me. As someone who is a vegetarian it is interesting to ready this. The health benefits I have seen in myself is something that I am extremely happy with and it is easier that what people expect. To be honest, I did not know the facts about if people gave up meat the global death rate would drop by 2050, to me that is amazing to think of. Many people state it is too hard to give up meat, but in reality it is not at all. Almost every place has vegetarian options and it is healthier (if I can also be a vegetarian with a gluten allergy, people can stop eating meat, there is other food out there people). Also it is a easy way to get the obesity problem under control. It also helps the environment so much that is doesn't make sense and with the way animals are treated when killed and the way they are prepared for the people to eat is so inhumane and disgusting that it will help the animals and us so much more if we at least tried to cut back on meat. This article reminded me why I am a vegetarian and made me more adamant on the fact that I will continue being one.

Anonymous said...

This has become a very big issue across the world. The article makes some very good facts about how changing the worlds diet to more vegetables that it will have a positive effects on the environment as well as other things. Such as lives being saved if people ate less meat. I feel that this is something that should be considered heavily with many countries. With other facts such as it will be healthier to eat less meat and the obvious of less pollution. With proper backing this could possibly be a reachable goal of changing to more of a plant based diet.
-Andrew Ponticiello

Chase Harnett said...

I learned about the benefits of a global dietary reconfiguration towards a more vegetarian diet in an "Animal Ethics Class". It seems that benefits are found in every angle one looks at the scenario. A dietary shift on a global scale towards vegan or vegetarian practices promotes both individual and global health in all aspects; yet the majority of us still consume more than double the suggested amount of meat for a healthy diet. Arguably, in the United States, abnormally high levels of meat consumption is practiced by the vast majority of men to promote their "manliness". In an almost tribal effort to assert their power in a group of people when one slaps down a prime cut of beef on the grill. Similar to what the first Homo-sapiens did in their social groups. They would bring home the kill. Accept in this day and age the average “cook” manning the Sunday barbecue has never been within fifty feet of a cow destined for the slaughterhouse. Simply put, most individuals today don’t know where their food has been, or how it got to their plates. I am an advocate for the vegetarian diet. I feel that is it a good place to start in the effort to right the economic, social, and political problem that is modern agriculture and food production.

C.H.

Anonymous said...

I have thought about going vegan several times. Not only because of the ecological footprint, but because it is also unhealthy. Red meat is not something a person should be eating constantly. However, what can you do when you are surrounded by thousands of fast-food chains. Back home, every street had a Chinese restaurant and a McDonald's. It is unavoidable. In addition to that, things that are healthy for you and extremely hard to find in the supermarkets. I could not find Flax Seeds anywhere in the supermarket, which is surprising to me. I certainly agree about changing the economy's diet in order to avoid millions of deaths. This problem is bigger than what everybody thinks. I am really surprised that eating red meat also puts a strain on our budget! If this post was on Huffington Post or in the New York Times, I believe that majority of the people will change their eating habits and our ecological footprint will be decreased dramatically.

-Fatimah Majors

Kaitlynn Brady said...

Ironically this is the topic I chose for my research paper because I have become so passionate about food and the modern day diet. I have been a vegetarian for over a year now with bouts of month long veganism binges. Even though a vegan diet is a much more harsh transition, my meatless diet has been a rather easy lifestyle change. When you look at the facts, such as presented in this blog, there are just too many benefits not only for yourself, but also for the environment to not at least make little dietary changes. I think this is the easiest way to significantly cut back on carbon emissions and drastically improve your health, all you have to do is cut out one section of your food pyramid. If the world cut back on meat consumption it could eleviate some of the other stresses we have put on the world, i.e. overpopulation and overconsumption. We think we are this superior species because our brains hold the capacity to create these unnecessary inventions, but what is ultimately doing is killing us. GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and fertilizers, all these modern science progressions are actually harming us more than they are helping us. It is time to drop the fast food chains and our meat-intensive diets and get back to traditional farming and the diets our bodies were meant to intake.

SUET SZE AU said...

Written by SUET SZE AU

This interesting article proposed a vegetarian diet can make people healthier and protect the environment. I personally agree that we should have a more vegetable- based diet. The article suggested that 5-8 m death/year could be avoided by adopting a vegetarian-based diet and cutting red meat consumption. Moreover, a vegetarian diet can reduce the food-related greenhouse gases from 29 to 70%. Although having a vegetarian diet is beneficial to our health and environment, the shift of diet from meat to vegetable is not easy. It depends on people to change their consumption preferences and people actually have freedom to choose what they want to eat. The goal of shifting diet really requires a long term effort in changing the society norm.

Rebecca McMann said...

A begin arias diet definitely has it positive aspects with the saving animal lives, but we are human and born to be omnivores. Meat is part of our diet. I am a huge activist for animal right and I agree with a philosopher and activist, Tom Reagen that no matter what it's still killing an animal but that's sadly how we get ,eat and meat is part of our diets. It's so hard to be an animal activist when you like meat. I would love to try vegetarian. With all the positives to the environment though it would be a great thing if a huge portion at least of the population switched to this style. There's so much to eat and it can help in so many ways. I currently do a meatless Monday challenge and don't eat meat on Mondays which helps contribute to the statistics placed in this article. It would be great to do this more but populations need to be in check with predator and prey so there is a point where it's not hurting the environment to have meat but we over do it and no matter what's it's killing an animal. If we are so smart and the highest on the food chain why can't we all out our brains together and figure all this out and not be a stand still like the politics way. It be such a great thing to go vegetarian but it's very hard to completely change your diet. I'm Italian and many other European nations in my blood. All have huge meat based meals as tradition, I love food so this change is hard. But no matter what wig education everyone can make a decision for themselves and hopefully will at least lower their consumption of meat to ,ale some kind of positive impact.

Ralph Green said...

A vegetarian diet would be better for both people and the environment but the problem is people chose not to do it which means they do not care for the environment. We know that eating fruits and vegetables is better than eating for say red meat and processed foods but we still do it and especially here in america we over do it. Generally what Im saying is that we need to do what is right not only for ourselves but also for the environment. This is a reason to be concerned for your health and also to watch what you eat, so start caring.

Grace Florian said...

Although it is clearly a fact that being a vegetarian and having the specific diet they do can help to improve the environment and a lot of other things in our world, is it fair to expect everyone to become vegetarian? There are cultures with many traditions, rituals, and history based on meat and the consumption of it. Should these cultures be expected to abandon these ideas? I do think that it is a good idea to do so, personally, but just because meat isn't as important to me, doesn't mean that it doesn't have an extremely large significance to others all around the world. If we want to make improvements in our world, becoming vegetarian might be a good idea, and important, but it is also important to respect that people have their own traditions, and we can't expect them to simply abandon them.

Anonymous said...

Having a vegetarian diet is beneficial to both your personal health, and the health of the environment. However, we live in a world today where red meat is consumed in almost every meal and overconsumption is a major contributing factor to many of the current environmental problems we face today. We would be better off if we cut down on our red meat consumption and went more vegan. People don't want to change their life styles and many people don't worry about what our environment will be like years later. It will be beneficial to start cutting back on red meat consumption, but this will also need to be a slow and steady process. Red meat is a huge part if our diets and we will need to slowly cut back on it and move towards a more vegan diet.

Robert Martin

Erika Anzalone said...

I find this article extremely intriguing and I some day would like to become vegetarian or vegan when I no longer play sports. I agree this is one step closer to a better environment no matter how small the improvement. If everyone in the world began to cut mea tout of their diet, the carbon emissions would be cut immensely. This drastic decrease in carbon emissions and methane emissions will improve the quality of our environment by a landslide. This is the first step to becoming a cleaner and healthier world- cutting out unnecessary things to ultimately make for a better future.

Erika Anzalone

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Anonymous said...

The article made me aware that climate change has a negative impact on the economy and the military of the US, before the reading this article I didn’t give it much thought. I always saw the aesthetic value, the fact that animals might be in danger and the overall natural benefits that we get from nature in jeopardy. In addition, as a whole (US government and scientist) need to stop going back and forth of whether or not climate change exist. Plans need I be made, protocols need to be set in place since climate change not only damages the athletic value but decreases our natural resources and takes a toll of defense and economy. I hate to think of the tragedies that will happen if the United States does not start making plans to address this issue. Will we have enough food? Will the US suffer another Great depression? Will the people who call the United States home have to find a home in a different country?

Victoria Viguera