Research suggests the global shift to a plant-based flexitarian diet may help curb global warming

A global shift to a plant-based “flexitarian” diet could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests that by reducing meat consumption and increasing intake of plant-based foods, the impact of current food emissions rates on meeting key international climate targets could be prevented.

“The shift towards healthy diets is not only good for personal health, the land and food systems, but also has consequences for the economy as a whole,” said Florian Humpenöder, senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, noting that there is an urgent need to accelerate emissions reductions.

Policies that tax or explicitly price greenhouse gas emissions could provide incentives to reduce carbon footprints, but researchers believe government efforts in this regard will have little effect.

Research has found that adopting a flexitarian diet reduces methane and nitric oxide emissions from agriculture, reducing the impact of food production on water, nitrogen and biodiversity. This would further reduce the economic costs associated with human health and ecosystem degradation, and reduce the pricing or abatement costs of greenhouse gas emissions by 43% in 2050.

Research models also show that peak warming could be limited to about 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2045 by reducing carbon dioxide removal.

Humpenöder said, “It is important to emphasize that flexitarians are not vegans or strict vegetarians. Their diets contain fewer animal products, especially in high-income areas, and this diet is based on human consumption.” The best considerations for health.”

U.S. agriculture produces more than 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, most of which comes from livestock. Reducing meat consumption could free up agricultural land for livestock production, thereby reducing methane emissions. Animal production is the leading cause of air quality-related health impacts from the U.S. food system.

Jason Hill, a professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems at the University of Minnesota, said: “This study further confirms the results of other studies that by changing our diet, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The researchers believe that achieving a shift towards healthier diets could be achieved through price-based incentives, such as taxes on the highest-emitting animal products. Another option is to raise consumer awareness of the environmental impact of high meat consumption.

“There are many players throughout the food system. Producers, consumers choose what to eat, and especially in the United States, the government supports the type of agriculture that leads to overproduction of red meat,” Jason Hill said.