I cut out meat like pork and beef from my diet months ago when I found out they were bad for my health. Numerous studies and research have found that eating meat like beef and pork are the leading causes of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Clearly, consuming these animal products isn’t healthy for our bodies.
There’s an understanding now that eating meat is bad for our bodies and switching to a plant-based diet is much better for us. However, does shutting down the production of meat and dairy have an effect on the environment? Turns out there is an effect and its a positive one.
A study published in the journal Nature Sustainability says if we got rid of the production of meat and dairy we could remove up to 16 years worth of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050. According to the study: “Extensive land uses to meet dietary preference incur a ‘carbon opportunity cost’ given the potential for carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration.”
This means the more we participate in meat production, the more CO2 will be released in the atmosphere. The study also points out that shifts in global food production to plant-based diets by 2050 could lead to a 99-163 percent of CO2 emissions budget in line with a 66 percent chance of limiting temperature level to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The amount of land that’s used in the production of meat and dairy products is astonishing. 83 percent of the land globally is used for meat and dairy production. The sad part about that is livestock only counts for about 18 percent of our calories.
That’s a huge waste of land for only 18 percent of calories. Research shows that global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75 percent. That’s a chunk of land equivalent to the size of the US, China, Australia, and the European Union combined and can still feed the planet.
Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, reported in the research saying “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification (air pollution), eutrophication (water pollution), land and water use.
It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.” This is a very big deal. Just cutting out meat and dairy can solve a lot of the environmental problems we’re facing.
Author and Environmental Scientist Matthew Hayek of New York University and his colleagues found areas where native vegetables have been compromised for livestock. They’ve concluded that by lowering the demand for meat and dairy, growing vegetation in these areas can help lower CO2 emissions while having a very small impact on food security.
Dr. Hayek says “the greatest potential for forest regrowth, and the climate benefits it entails exists in high- and upper-middle countries. We only mapped areas where seeds could disperse naturally, growing and multiplying into dense, biodiverse forests and other ecosystems that work to remove carbon dioxide for us.”
Cutting out meat and dairy from our diet can be the biggest act to reduce harm to the environment. Switching to a plant-based diet is not only for our bodies but also good for our planet. This will help with reducing CO2 emissions and water and land use.
We can regrow vegetation in areas that were previously used for meat and dairy production to bring back wildlife. I do wonder what will happen to the cows and pigs after the shift. Do we let them go live their lives in the wild or not?