Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Contact

Stephanie Feldstein, (734) 395-0770, sfeldstein@biologicaldiversity.org

Press Release

Study: Cutting U.S. Meat Intake in Half Could Prevent 1.6 Billion Tons of Climate Pollution

WASHINGTON -

 New research released by the University of Michigan and Tulane University today found that replacing 50% of animal products with plant-based foods in the United States would prevent more than 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.

If beef consumption were reduced by 90% alongside the 50% reduction in other animal products, it would prevent more than 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.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which supported this research, has released a policy guide for decision-makers at the federal, state and local levels to advance the dietary shifts needed to meet emissions-reduction goals.

“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.”

Today’s 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 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.”

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

Bodycam Footage Shows Ohio Police Shooting Jayland Walker 60+ Times

"The Department of Justice needs to step in to investigate immediately," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Impeach Justice Clarence Thomas' Petition Nears 1 Million Signatures

"He has shown he cannot be an impartial justice and is more concerned with covering up his wife's coup attempts than the health of the Supreme Court," reads the petition.

Jake Johnson ·


'Tipping Point of No Return' Feared as Amazon Rainforest Fires Surge

"Up to now, the Biden administration has only legitimized the Brazilian government's anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda," said Greenpeace USA.

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Urged to Embrace Windfall Tax as Exxon Says Profits Doubled in Second Quarter

"It's time for the president to demand that Congress pass a windfall profits tax on Big Oil and use the revenue to provide rebates to consumers NOW!" wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo