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Have you ever wondered what if meat consumption is phased out of the world? Global reductions in meat diets could help mitigate the dangerous impacts of climate change. According to a comprehensive analysis of the food system, beef consumption in Western countries needs to decrease by 90 percent and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses to avoid climate change impacts.
Recent studies warn that there are just a couple more years to maintain rising temperatures under 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which even a slight rise might worsen the risks of deadly natural calamities. Eating less meat and dairy products is essential; however, current trends are going in the opposite direction.
If meat consumption is phased out from the world over the next 15 years or so, greenhouse gas emissions would begin to stabilize from 2030 onwards. This finding recently appeared in a study published in PLOS Climate– it joins several other papers that have looked at the power of dietary change to achieve specific climate targets.
The study mainly focuses on the potential of removing toxic amounts of nitrous oxide and methane from the atmosphere over a relatively short time through the way we eat. Methane and nitrous oxide are two greenhouse gases that are products of livestock farming and feed production.
The study suggests three ways to reduce these gases through dietary patterns:
Researchers and experts believe that the third method has tremendous potential for change.
A vegetarian diet or a vegan diet is generally much healthier than a meat-based diet. Healthcare costs would dwindle. Fewer people suffering from food-related (meat-related) chronic diseases would reduce medical bills, saving approximately 2 to 3 percent of the gross domestic product worldwide. A global plant-based diet could lead to several environmental benefits such as reduction of emissions, shrinking of water footprint, conversion of ranchland into forests and grasslands, etc.
Global vegetarian diets can also lead to huge challenges. In some parts of the world, rich plant-based diets can be harder to access and much more expensive than meat. Shifting to plant-based diets will also require investments. Livestock farmers should not have to bear the impacts of a global shift. Thus, livestock farmers will need significant financial support.
Nevertheless, this dietary change is still regarded as a powerful tool to mitigate climate change. Changing what we consume can have substantial positive impacts on the environment. Researchers argue that humanity won’t be able to reach climate targets without a dietary shift.