Cutting Back on Meat Could Significantly Impact Climate, Research Says

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Loma Linda, CA—A global transition to a vegetarian diet would have significant impacts in the battle against global warming and other environmental concerns, according to research from Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

A press release on the topic notes that food production is a major contributor to increased greenhouse gas emissions and is responsible for 80% of the world’s deforestation. Improvement of agricultural technology and reduction of food waste are potential solutions, but Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, found that alterations in food choices would have a far greater effect on the environment.

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Sabaté performed a meta-analysis of 49 published research studies that focused on the impact that vegetarian and vegan diets have on greenhouse gas emissions and water and land use. He found that shifting from current dietary norms to ovolactovegetarian and vegan diets would reduce greenhouse gas levels an average of 35%, reduce land usage for food production by an average of 42%, and reduce agricultural water usage by an average of 28%.

“Many other studies have clearly demonstrated the health advantages of vegetarian and vegan diets,” Sabaté said in the release. “This analysis confirms that switching to these types of diets could be significantly eco-friendly.” However, he notes a couple roadblocks: Reducing meat consumption is a major challenge, in societies wherein daily meat consumption is the norm. Plus: “In low- and middle-income countries, eliminating meat could adversely affect those populations’ already marginal nutrition status.”

He also noted that more research is necessary, particularly research comparing large-scale agricultural operations with small-operation family farms practices.

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