A recent study published in the USA peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that a global switch to a less-meat, more fruit and veggie diet could reduce food-related green house gas emissions by 2/3 and save the world billions of dollars a year on health care costs.
The PNAS report is the first report to estimate both the health impact and the climate change impacts of a global shift towards a more plant-based diet.
The PNAS report shows that our food system produces more than a quarter of all green house gas emissions (> 25% of global GHG emissions), of which up to 80% are associated with livestock production.
Oxford University researchers (from England) studied the Environmental and Health impacts of 4 dietary scenarios in 2050:
1) a business-as-usual scenario
2) a scenario that follows global dietary guidelines with limits on red meat, total calories and increased amounts of fruit and vegetables.
[A diet that includes (per day) a minimum of intake of 5 portions of fruits and vegetables, fewer than 50 g of sugar, a maximum intake of 43 g of red meat per day and energy content of 2200- 2300 kcal.]
3) a vegetarian diet scenario
4) a vegan diet scenario. (plant-base diet without meat, eggs and dairy products.)
[World Health Organization’s definition of red meat includes beef, mutton and pork.]
To adopt a diet that follows global guidelines would require a 25% increase in global consumption of fruits and veggies and a 56% reduction in global red meat consumption. Humans would also need to consume 15% fewer calories.
The study found that global adoption of a diet that follows global guidelines could prevent 5.1 million deaths per year and cut food-related green house gas emissions by 29%. Adopting a vegan diet would prevent 8.1million deaths and cut food-related green house gas emissions by 70%.
Dietary shifts could save the world $700 billion to $1,000 billion per year on healthcare, unpaid care and lost working days. Dietary shifts would also have an economic benefit of up to $570 billion due to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Extracts from the Article:
“Lead author of the PNAS report, Marco Springmann (University of Oxford) of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, commented,
“We do not expect everybody to become vegan. But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction."