Changes In What We Eat Can Have A Direct Effect On Mitigating Climate Change

A balanced diet, according to research, can lead to longer life and better overall health. But it turns out that making changes in what we eat can also help fight the problem of global climate change, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Eco Watch reports:

“Researchers … looked at diets in 140 countries across the world and measured the ecological impact of their food production in order to identify ways to mitigate climate change.

“The study, called Country-specific dietary shifts to mitigate climate and water crises found that an important first step would be to shift Europe and the United States away from a diet heavy in meat and dairy.”

One of the main culprits when it comes to climate change is a reliance on meat from cattle in the developed world, the study notes. And the data shows just how much of an impact cattle farming has on the climate:

  • Livestock are responsible for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Cows account for about 65 percent of the livestock sector’s emissions. Pork is a distant second at 9 percent.
  • One of the main byproducts of cow digestion is methane. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

But the solution isn’t a one size fits all approach, the study goes on to show, especially as it relates to the third world:

“Animal source foods, specifically milk and eggs, are in fact a valuable source of protein and nutrients like calcium, which are especially important for young children and pregnant women.

“‘Some countries, such as Indonesia, India and most of the African countries may actually need to dramatically increase their greenhouse gas emissions and water use, because they have to combat hunger and stunting.'”

In developing nations, there remains a high likelihood of stunting in children. which is a direct side effect of malnutrition. Stunting is a major cause of cognitive abilities of children, according to study co-author, Martin Bloem:

“It’s irreversible by the age of two, so stunting has huge implications for the human capital in those countries. That’s why it’s very critical that we prevent stunting and we need animal source foods for that. We cannot keep that out of the equation when talking about climate protection.”

One possible solution can be found in fish, the study from Johns Hopkins shows. Diets in high in proteins from animals low on the food chain — small fish and mollusks — have as low of an impact on the environment as a vegan diet, according to Bloem:

“Small fish are really critical for poor people, particularly in Africa and Asia, as that’s one of the main sources for protein and calcium, because the milk intake is very low in those countries.

“But 80% of all the fish produced nowadays actually comes from Asia and is imported in Europe and the US. And the feed for some of these bigger fish we import are actually those smaller fish, which means the poorer people have no more access to this vital source of protein and calcium.”

Another factor that plays a role in the impact your diet has on the climate is where you get your food from.

For example, producing one pound of beef in Paraguay contributes 17 times more greenhouse gases than the same pound of beef produced in Denmark. This dramatic difference is largely the result of deforestation that is used to create grazing land for cattle.

Clearly, if we make changes in our diets, we can not only live longer and have better health but also contribute to the overall health of the planet we live on.


Featured Image Via Pixabay



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Andrew Bradford

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