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Linking Dietary Choices to Climate Change.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Tulane University developed a new database, dataFIELD, to better approximate the environmental impacts of dietary choices. (1) This is the first attempt to estimate the total greenhouse gas emissions and comprehensive energy demand (amount of energy needed to create a product) from self-selected diets (what people actually eat) in the U.S.

The researchers found that, on average, 4.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide are produced per day from the food a person in the U.S. eats. This greenhouse gas comes from food production, transportation, and ingredient processing. Compare this to the average passenger car emission of 404 grams (0.404 kilograms) of carbon dioxide per mile. (2) This study suggests that, in the U.S., meat is responsible for 56.6% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from diet, followed by dairy, which is responsible for 18.3%. (1) Vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits each individually account for less than 3% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from diet.

The environmental impact of the highest greenhouse gas producing diets is eight times higher than that of the lowest greenhouse gas producing diets. Almost three-quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the highest greenhouse gas producing diets are due to meat, specifically beef. According to the researchers, "If the top quintile of diets (representing 44.6 million Americans on a given day) shifted such that their associated GHGE [greenhouse gas emissions] were aligned with the mean [average] impact, this would represent a one-day reduction in GHGE of 0.27 million metric tons C[O.sub.2] eq. (mmt), equivalent to eliminating 661 million average passenger vehicle miles on a given day." (1)

Dietary change, meaning lower calorie intake and/ or less meat and dairy consumption, is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus climate change.

By Amy Dell, VRG Intern

(1) Heller MC, Willits-Smith A, Meyer R, Keoleian GA, Rose D. 2018. Greenhouse gas emissions and energy use associated with production of individual self-selected US diets. Environ Res Lett. 13(4):044004.

(2) EPA. Greenhouse gas emissions from a typical passenger vehicle, greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle. Accessed 25 June 2018.

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Title Annotation:Scientific Update: A Review of Recent Scientific Papers Related to Vegetarianism
Author:Dell, Amy
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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