Cutting meat consumption in half would reduce food-related greenhouse emissions up to 70%

2050 is coming, and how it looks will be the result of what's on our plates.

Cutting meat consumption in half would reduce food-related greenhouse emissions up to 70%
Photo Credit: SAM PANTHAKY / AFP / Getty Images

Humans consume a lot of meat; it's tasty, natural, and necessary. But we could probably do with eating less of it.

A study published in 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) decided to take a look at how the world would be different if humans altered their diet and consumed less meat. How would this alter climate change and how would it benefit overall human health?

What they found is a solution that could change the world.

Health and climate change are greatly intertwined. The livestock industry poses a particularly interesting challenge on this front. It's one of the top contributors to climate change, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN. And it's one of the tastiest industries out there — no one is giving up meat unless given a tasty alternative, like lab-grown meat.

Image source: Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images

Researchers aren't suggesting everyone goes vegan or even vegetarian. They propose a very reasonable diet: cutting meat consumption by about 50 percent and supplementing that loss in meat with a more plant-based diet. The results suggest the environment and human health would benefit greatly if we pursued this shift in lifestyle.

The researchers write:

"Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6–10 percent and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29–70 percent compared with a reference scenario in 2050."

Convincing everyone to part with even a piece of such a huge cultural tradition will be a matter of personal choice. Governments certainly aren't going to step in and regulate.

“There is a deep reluctance to engage because of the received wisdom that it is not the place of governments or civil society to intrude into people's lives and tell them what to eat," said Rob Bailey, the author of a different study on meat and dairy consumption. Remember when Mayor Bloomberg tried to ban over-sized sodas in New York City? It did not go over well.

Climate change is not just an environmental crisis, it's one that compromises public health. Much of the time this issue seems so monumental that it's out of our hands, but that's not the case. There's a major part we can play in the choices we make while shopping at the grocery store. Just take a little less meat and a little more veggies, and maybe by 2050 we can make this hypothetical PNAS future a reality.

***

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

3,000-pound Triceratops skull unearthed in South Dakota

"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.

Excavation of a triceratops skull in South Dakota.

Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
Surprising Science
  • The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
  • It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
  • Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Keep reading Show less

Dark matter axions possibly found near Magnificent 7 neutron stars

A new study proposes mysterious axions may be found in X-rays coming from a cluster of neutron stars.

A rendering of the XMM-Newton (X-ray multi-mirror mission) space telescope.

Credit: D. Ducros; ESA/XMM-Newton, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Surprising Science
  • A study led by Berkeley Lab suggests axions may be present near neutron stars known as the Magnificent Seven.
  • The axions, theorized fundamental particles, could be found in the high-energy X-rays emitted from the stars.
  • Axions have yet to be observed directly and may be responsible for the elusive dark matter.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

    New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

    Credit: Columbia Pictures
    Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Surprising Science

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast