food

Vegetarian diets not always the most climate-friendly, researchers say

13 Comments
By Thin Lei Win

It may be possible to help tackle climate change while still munching on the occasional bacon sandwich or slurping a few oysters, a new study suggested on Tuesday.

Scientists found that diets in which meat, fish or dairy products were consumed only once a day would leave less of a footprint on climate change and water supplies than a vegetarian diet including milk and eggs, in 95% of countries they analyzed.

That is partly because raising dairy cows for milk, butter and cheese requires large amounts of energy and land, as well as fertilizers and pesticides to grow fodder, emitting greenhouse gases that are heating up the planet, the study said.

Diets that contain insects, small fish and molluscs, meanwhile, have as similarly small an environmental impact as plant-based vegan diets but are generally more nutritious, said researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

They calculated greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater use for nine different diets - ranging from one meatless day a week and no red meat, to pescatarian and vegan - in 140 countries.

Many climate activists and scientists have called for a shift to plant-based diets to keep climate change in check and reduce deforestation, since producing red meat requires a lot of land for grazing and growing feed.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use activities accounted for nearly a quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissions from 2007-2016, the U.N. climate science panel said in a flagship report last month.

But there is no one-size-fits-all solution, said Keeve Nachman, assistant professor at the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who led the study on diets.

In low- and middle-income countries such as Indonesia, citizens on average need to eat more animal protein for adequate nutrition, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

That means diet-related heat-trapping emissions and water use in poorer countries would need to rise to reduce hunger and malnutrition, while high-income countries should reduce their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs, the study said.

On average, producing a serving of beef emits 316 times more greenhouse gases - including methane - than pulses, 115 times more than nuts, and 40 times more than soy, it added.

According to the World Resources Institute, a U.S.-based think-tank, diners in North and South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union make up only a quarter of the global population but ate more than half of the world's meat from ruminants - such as cattle, sheep and goats - in 2010.

The latest study also found that producing a pound of beef in Paraguay contributes nearly 17 times more greenhouse gases than in Denmark, partly because in Latin America, it often involves cutting down forests to clear land for cattle grazing.

A typical diet in Niger has the highest water footprint, researchers noted, mainly due to millet production and crop residues that cannot be consumed.

© Thomson Reuters Foundation)

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

13 Comments
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Sheer garbage. The problem is not the diet, its the fact that our society is not geared for that diet. When you realize that it takes 10 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef, you really start to see the math. Its FAR more efficient to eat the grain instead. More farmland is currently used to feed livestock than humans in meat eating countries. Obviously that is garbage for the environment.

That said an vegan or vegetarian diet is not itself geared toward ecology and never was. They only could be if we all do them.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Long story short: "On average, producing a serving of beef emits 316 times more greenhouse gases - including methane - than pulses, 115 times more than nuts, and 40 times more than soy, it added." The article also fails to adequately consider the amount of arable land being used to produce animal fodder rather than crops that can be consumed directly by people.

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Long story short: "On average, producing a serving of beef emits 316 times more greenhouse gases - including methane - than pulses, 115 times more than nuts, and 40 times more than soy, it added."

What percentage of greenhouse gasses does it produce overall? That's the number I'm curious about. For example, if even at those elevated rates beef were only producing 0.0001% of the greenhouse gasses in the world, I'd say focusing our efforts on managing beef consumption as a method of dealing with the greenhouse gas problem wouldn't be the most effective way to go about it.

Anyone know those numbers?

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How convenient for the researchers to use vegetarians and not vegans in an underhanded attempt to undermine all non meat eaters. Raising crops for cattle and livestock food is fat worse on the carbon footprint than if we grew enough crops to sustain a plant based diet. Vegans consume no animal products including dairy

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Raising crops for cattle and livestock food is fat worse on the carbon footprint than if we grew enough crops to sustain a plant based diet.

"We" being agribusiness.

Vegans consume no animal products including dairy

Consequently they consume other things in its place, which are just as likely to have been produced in ways that are not benign for the environment.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Raising crops for cattle and livestock food is fat worse on the carbon footprint than if we grew enough crops to sustain a plant based diet. 

I can believe that. What I’m not clear on is to what degree raising cattle actually contributes to the problem. Does anyone know?

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The study also finds that if the world became vegan it would cut food related carbon emissions by 70 per cent.

So why isn't the article entitled what the study actually says,

"Vegan diets the most climate-friendly, researchers say"

A typical SAD (Standard American diet) produces an excess of +135%.

A vegetarian diet -2% ... 137% less.

Insect/plant based would be -68%.

This Flexitarian (2/3 vegan) recommendation -41%.

Enjoy your bugs.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/eating-meat-better-environment-going-vegetarian-finds-new-study/

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Except that the positive impact on human health of a little more dairy and much less red meat would be profound. Yes, vegetable based.....and would like to be vegan except for the nasty supplements no one talks about required to make up for loss of fiber and vitamins from my salmon and daily serving of yogurt. That is why fasting is so appealing, and much simpler than making these calculated food choices. Because unfortunately there is no single magic bullet solution I know of that will save people, animals and the environment simultaneously.

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Could not a Reuters correspondent connect with more scientific data to support what is claimed? Also, it is no good to propose a vegan diet if people do not know how to get full nutrition from such a menu. Yet, to reject dairy products as a protein support to a vegetarian diet undertaken without a tradition of what is needed for health, is to encourage either experimental diets that end when one has to take iron pills according to a doctor or the spread of gross inertia against pleas for less meat-centered programs. Finding out how to eat crustaceans and tiny fish (let alone insects!) would not be easy for most Americans in the homeland. Yet, one or two vegan main meals a week would make quite a difference in the environment if universally adopted.

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This has been a topic of discussion and controversy for years, and it seems no one can produce a clear answer with a math problem and solution. Why?

Because no matter how you look at it, whether it’s animal meat, dairy, pulses, grains or whatever, the numbers are astronomical.

There are just too many people on our planet. We are overpopulated, our planet cannot handle us. We are able to save nearly every foetus, no matter what their future outlook, we can cure many diseases and sicknesses, and now, we want to extend our lives....

It’s time we admit we’ve reached a limit here!

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We haven't necessarily reached a limit of people, though reducing population could be one way to deal with the issue.

What has happened is that we've gone beyoned the capacity at which our planet can respond in a healthy manner to the output we as humanity are creating. There are two factors at play. One is the number of people we have. If there were only say 1000 people, who somehow had all our technology, they could continue to live with the same rate of output of greenhouse gasses and whatnot without any problem to the planet. I think anyone could agree with this. So reducing population is one factor we could adjust to fix our problems, which would allow us to continue to live mostly the same way we are.

Or, we could instead look at the problems our current manner of living is creating, and work to reduce the harmful ways of living, while increasing the more positive ways. In other words, get healthy.

As a species, we're like that overweight guy on the sofa who can order Uber Eats, watch Netflix, and play any number of video games right from his sofa. But it hurts to stand up, he has diabetes and breathing problems, and no one loves him because he stinks. He knows he should go to the gym, and half his brain tells him that every day, but the other half really likes sitting on the sofa eating his Uber eats and playing video games.

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There are just too many people on our planet. We are overpopulated, our planet cannot handle us. We are able to save nearly every foetus, no matter what their future outlook, we can cure many diseases and sicknesses, and now, we want to extend our lives....

I agree that getting as many of us as possible healthy is the key. Which will inevitably lead to lifespans of 120 or 150 years or more but more importantly will reduce the footprint of chronic illness on the health care system and save literally tens of trillions of dollars per decade. Even now it is almost axiomatic that the longest lived people tend to have only a short period of illness before death. Whether that longevity dividend ends up productively spent on education and saving the planet is another matter.

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There are just too many people on our planet. We are overpopulated, our planet cannot handle us.

The planet can handle us, just not at our current rate of consumption. If we reduced our rates of consumption the planet would be fine.

Unfortunately we’re all addicts to modern technology.

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