Save the Planet Go Plant-Based
By: George C. Wang
As public attention focuses on the impact of policy changes on the climate, we may overlook an important contributor to the climate crisis: our food systems and the daily food choices we make. It may sound hyperbolic that our roast beef sandwich is contributing to environmental degradation of the planet. But mounting evidence of the impact requires our attention and action as global citizens. And each of us can do something about it, today, by taking what we eat as seriously as we take climate change.
An assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations indicated the contribution of the livestock sector to global greenhouse gas emissions exceeds that of transportation. Emissions from the production of beef and lamb are 250 times higher than those from legumes, per gram of protein, and pork and poultry are 40 times higher than legumes. A large amount of methane and nitrous oxide, gases that are more than 20 times and 250 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, are generated through livestock-raising activities.
The effect of greenhouse gas emissions seems like an intransigent problem to curb, much less to solve. How can we play a role in influencing what humans are doing to the planet? And how can we approach these issues when political and economic forces can undermine efforts to address the climate crisis? One answer lies in the choices that we make every day: what we eat. A study published in Nature found that, by 2050, a projected 80% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions from food production can be avoided, if the global diet is an equal-parts mixture of the Mediterranean, pescatarian and vegetarian diets.