Meat and Climate Change
I’ve been writing about the harmful effects of animal agriculture on climate change for some time now. Research from 2009 indicates dietary changes can substantially help address global climate change:
By using an integrated assessment model, we found a global food transition to less meat, or even a complete switch to plant-based protein food to have a dramatic effect on land use. Up to 2,700 Mha of pasture and 100 Mha of cropland could be abandoned, resulting in a large carbon uptake from regrowing vegetation. Additionally, methane and nitrous oxide emission would be reduced substantially. A global transition to a low meat-diet as recommended for health reasons would reduce the mitigation costs to achieve a 450 ppm CO2-eq. stabilisation target by about 50% in 2050 compared to the reference case. Dietary changes could therefore not only create substantial benefits for human health and global land use, but can also play an important role in future climate change mitigation policies.
My colleague Sailesh Rao’s work, presented at the Annual Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in 2015 is even more promising.
The latest research shows that only 6% of those sampled in the U.S. understand the remarkably high greenhouse-gas reducing effects of a low-meat diet. Analysis of this study by one of its authors suggests that while communicating the sizable effect of reducing meat in the diet on climate change mitigation efforts might be helpful in motivating environmentalists and those who already eat less meat, it’s less salient for heavy meat-eaters.
As we advocate and practice through our services at AZENTIVE, current research supports the collective approach, or cultural change. A positive, empowering approach to dietary change has the power to reduce climate change and improve wellness, which is the foundation for why Alchemus Prime, and our Diamond Model, was created.
It is heartening to see more research on this topic. I’ll sum up with the eloquent words of study co-author Annick de Witt:
As many authors have argued, the greatest potential for a shift towards sustainable lifestyles is through a change in culture and worldview—a shift in assumptions about human nature, our relationship with the (natural) world around us, and our aspirations for the ‘good life’. Food touches on social habits and norms; plays a role in mediating power and status; is often key to social participation and acceptance; and is expressive of collective values and identity. Consumption and lifestyles therefore tend to be shaped more by people collectively than individually.
As we combat climate change together, it makes sense to take the most effective action: changing our diets. A wonderful side effect is that we can simultaneously address epidemic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Win-wins, all around.