A new research review from the University of Oxford shows that eating a plant-based diet is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint.
“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth.”
Lead study author Joseph Poore told the Guardian that while he started the project to understand sustainable animal production, he has since stopped consuming animal products altogether, due to his findings.
“These impacts are not necessary to sustain our current way of life,” he told the outlet. “The question is how much can we reduce them, and the answer is a lot.”
The research review, published in the journal Science, explored data regarding almost 40,000 farms around the world. The researchers noted that the meat and dairy industries currently use 83 percent of global farmland (and produce 60 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions). Even the lowest-impact, most sustainable beef was found to be responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land than plant-based pea protein.
“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” Poore told the Guardian. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”
Fish is also a culprit, according to the researchers: Poore noted that freshwater fish farming methods are “perfect” for producing methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, albeit one that persists for less time in the atmosphere. In 2015, methane accounted for about 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The research also underscored the nutritional paucity of the meat and dairy industry: despite the fact that they use an overwhelming majority of farmland around the world, these industries provide just 18 percent of calories and 37 percent of protein in diets worldwide.
This research is in line with a recent report in Our World in Data that showed that transitioning to a plant-based diet is a more effective way of feeding the rapidly growing global population, which the United Nations estimates will reach 9.7 billion by 2050.
A March study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that devoting land to plant-based foods instead of meat would produce between twice and 20 times more nutritionally similar food per unit of cropland.
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