Science & Technology

The 'War on Meat' Will Make the 'War on Coal' Look Tame


University of Arkansas

Put down that burger, you irresponsible carnivores! Why? Because munching steaks, burgers, and chops significantly increases the carbon footprint of meat-eaters and thus their contribution to man-made global warming. So says a new study, "Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK," in the journal Climatic Change. By how much? The researchers conclude:

We have shown that dietary GHG emissions associated with self-selected diets in the UK are strongly associated with the amount of animal-based products in the diet. After adjustment for sex and age, an average 2,000 kcal high meat diet had 2.5 times as many GHG emissions than an average 2,000 kcal vegan diet…

Assuming that the average daily energy intake in the UK is 2,000 kcal, then moving from a high meat diet to a low meat diet would reduce an individual's carbon footprint by 920kgCO2e every year, moving from a high meat diet to a vegetarian diet would reduce the carbon footprint by 1,230kgCO2e/year, and moving from a high meat diet to a vegan diet would reduce the carbon footprint by 1,560kgCO2e/year…

A family running a 10 year old small family car for 6,000 miles has a carbon footprint of 2,440kgCO2e, roughly equivalent to the annual carbon saving of two high meat eating adults moving to a vegetarian diet…

Analysis of observed diets shows a positive relationship between dietary GHG emissions and the amount of animal-based products in a standard 2,000 kcal diet. This work demonstrates that reducing the intake of meat and other animal based products can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation. Other work has demonstrated other environmental and health benefits of a reduced meat diet. National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations in order to define a "healthy, sustainable diet" must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products.

Look for the EPA to launch its War on Meat shortly!