Disclaimer: While I am not suggesting Americans should be forced to alter their diet, this article shows that if President Biden feels he and other governments can affect climate change by dramatically altering the way humans live, then it is reasonable to believe he will attempt to alter Americans’ diets to fulfill his goal. I have been eating vegan since 1994.
According to President Biden’s “Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice” climate change is a national emergency which requires “bold” action by his administration. His website states that he “believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected.”
Setting aside whether one believes to what degree humans can affect climate change, Biden and his administration clearly feel the United States government along with the states and local governments can tackle this issue and be successful. Within that framework, it is only natural to include the effect animal farming has on methane and CO2 levels, so why discount it and not include reducing or eliminating meat from Americans diets as one of the climate change options? Since the government wants to dramatically change the way we collect energy, it is reasonable to conclude the government would want to take steps to make our bodies healthier while reducing greenhouse gases at the same time.
According to The Center for Biological Diversity, cutting U.S. meat intake in half could prevent 1.6 billion tons of climate pollution. If this is the science, why aren’t more climate alarmist ditching meat and going vegan? While a self-reporting 3 percent of the U.S. population purports to be eating plant-based (not necessarily vegan), 60 percent believe humans are creating climate change. So why hasn’t 57 percent of Americans gone vegan, shouldn’t we be following the science?
New research released by the University of Michigan and Tulane University found that replacing 50% of animal products with plant-based foods in the United States would prevent over 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. According to the study, if Americans reduced if beef consumption by 90% alongside the 50% reduction in other animal products, it would prevent over 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution. That’s roughly equivalent to taking nearly half the world’s cars off the roads for a year.
“Moving the American appetite from our burger-heavy diet to plant-based eating is a powerful and necessary part of curbing the climate crisis,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the meat supply chain’s vulnerabilities, but our food system faces even greater long-term threats from climate change. We desperately need policymakers to support sustainable diets and a resilient food system.”
The study, “Implications of Future U.S. Diet Scenarios on Greenhouse Gas Emissions“, found that replacing half of all animal-based foods with plant-based alternatives would reduce diet-related emissions by 35%. And if half of all animal-based foods were replaced with plant-based alternatives and beef consumption fell by 90%, dietary emissions would drop by 51%. If American diets remain unchanged, emissions associated with producing the food we eat will climb 9% by 2030.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that the world has under 10 years to reduce global emission by half to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. Last year the IPCC warned that food systems are already being adversely affected by climate disruption and identified dietary shifts as a solution for mitigation and adaptation. Previous research has shown that society will be unable to meet global climate targets without reducing meat and dairy consumption and production.
“While diet shift isn’t a silver bullet, it could play an important role in curbing climate change,” said Martin Heller, lead author of the study and research specialist at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems at the School for Environment and Sustainability. “Plus, it’s an actionable strategy at all levels, from consumers to the food industry to local, state and national policy.”
The Center’s policy guide — Appetite for Change: A Policy Guide to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Diets by 2030 — outlines key actions that can be taken at all levels of government. Those include shifting procurement toward plant-based purchases, creating food-policy councils, ending subsidies and bailouts that encourage overproduction of animal products, and incorporating sustainability into federal nutrition recommendations. The Trump administration is currently revising the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“We can’t ignore that public health, sustainability, climate resilience and food security are all part of the same recipe,” Feldstein said. “Our government has a responsibility to make healthy, climate-friendly foods more accessible to all Americans, and that starts with the dietary guidelines.”