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The diet that helps fight climate change

The diet that helps fight climate change

I have to admit that when it comes to food,
I’m a total sucker. Whether it’s sugar or grease or carbs, pretty
much bring it on! And I spend a lot of time in Montana, so for
me, that medium rare, grass fed ribeye steak? Pretty much as good as it gets. I know. I don’t do it often and when I do, I gotta
admit I feel a little conflicted. And that’s for a lot of reasons, including
the planet. But how big of a problem is what I eat? I mean, does it really make much of a dent
in something as huge as global warming? It turns out, what we put on our plates matters
a lot. About 25 percent of all the global climate
change problems we’re seeing can be attributed back to the food and the choices that we’re
actually making about what we eat on a daily basis. This is greater than all of the cars on the
planet. In fact, it’s about twice as much global
warming pollution as the cars. Ben Houlton and Maya Almaraz study the connection
between climate and diet at the University of California, Davis. They track how the way we produce food creates
greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. With their data, the team has crunched the
numbers to figure out how much carbon pollution is produced by different foods and different
diets. A lot of people feel really helpless when
it comes to climate change, like they can’t make a difference. And what our research is showing is that your
personal decisions really can have a big impact. So, take that grass fed ribeye steak I love. If you really look at everything that went
into making a single serving of beef, you end up emitting about 330 grams of carbon. That’s like driving a car three miles. Now, if I choose to have chicken instead,
there’s more than a five-fold drop in emissions. Switch to fish and you see the number go down
even more. Now, look at veggies. If I swapped beef out entirely for lentils,
well, I’m down to practically nothing! So, why does beef and lamb, too, for that
matter – pack such a powerful punch to the planet? Livestock accounts for a little over 14 percent
of global greenhouse gas emissions. If that sort of seems low to you, consider
it’s about equal to transportation. We’re talking all the cars, trucks, planes,
trains and ships on the planet combined! This is partly because ruminant animals like
cows and sheep – they’re just gassy! And the methane they produce is at least 25
times more potent than carbon dioxide. Plus it takes lot of land, fertilizer and
about a billion tons of grain to feed all that livestock. And you could feed 3.5 billion people with
that grain; if we were just directly eating these grains ourselves, it would eliminate
a lot of the CO2 that is emitted from cattle production. So it’s clear that meat has a pretty big
carbon load, but it’s also worth remembering that not all livestock is raised equally. In parts of the American West, for instance,
ranchers are working to raise livestock in ways that actually help restore the land. And they’re experimenting with ways that
soil and grasslands can be used to keep carbon pollution out of the air. But even these sustainable ranchers will really
tell you, we’re probably eating too much meat. I know a lot of people who if you don’t
serve them meat for lunch or dinner, they’re kind of like “well, when is the meat coming out?” It’s to the point now where the U.S. actually
has one of the highest meat footprints per capita. So, what about not eating meat at all? Vegan is the way to go for the least impact
on the planet, but it’s not that much different, in terms of emissions, than say, a vegetarian
diet. And the team found that the environmental
impact of the Mediterranean diet is pretty similar to vegan and vegetarian diets. It’s a lot less meat-heavy than what Americans
are used to – so, fish and poultry a few times a week; beef maybe once a month, plenty of
plant-based foods, and of course, loads of olive oil. Eliminating like 90 percent of your meat intake
is more important than eliminating all of your meat. We don’t all have to be vegan. We don’t all even have to be vegetarian. If we can just reduce our meat intake, every
little bit helps. And if you can bring it down a lot, you can
help the climate a lot. If we all just switched to a Mediterranean
diet, it could actually solve 15 percent of global warming pollution by 2050. If everyone were to move towards it, that
is equivalent to taking somewhere around a billion cars off of the streets, in terms
of vehicle emissions each year. So, that kind of a footprint is big-time. But say you still want more meat than the
Mediterranean diet recommends? Just cutting down your portion size to the
doctor-recommended 4 ounces can reduce your emissions by half. That’s huge! In fact, the doctors are telling us we’re
eating about twice as much meat as we really need for a healthy diet. The good news is, we are listening to our
doctors. In the last decade, there’s been a 19 percent
drop in the amount of beef we eat. All these things that you’re already being
told are good for you also happen to be good for the planet. So what we eat really is a big part of the
climate puzzle. I mean, we may not all be able to afford an
electric car or putting solar panels on our house, but we all have to eat every day. And these choices we make can add up to really
big numbers. And since meat has a pretty big carbon load,
we need to be thoughtful about how much we eat. As for that ribeye steak that I really love,
I am honestly trying to cut back! Maybe it’s just a smaller piece of steak;
or simply swapping out a meat dish for a veggie burger. It may seem like a small thing, but it really
does add up to big impacts. Hey, so what did you have for dinner last
night? Find out how your choices are affecting global
warming by taking a quiz at or watch one of our other episodes to discover
what happened when I brought a box of donuts to MIT.

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99 thoughts on “The diet that helps fight climate change

  1. I'm about 90% vegan, I only eat meat when I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snakes. So I'm a vegan 90% of the time

  2. Meat does not cause carbon emissions to increase, methane also came from 6 Million Buffalo that were native to our country at one time, grasslands sequester more carbon than any other biome in the world. These are the facts! Commercial meat production with confinement based livestock systems is the problem, not meat or eating meat. People, for these facts and more please look into regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agricultural practices use science, logic, and natural history to prove how nomadicly grazed livestock and meat from those animals can better our health ecosystems, and reverse climate change. PLEASE get the facts from ALL sides before you judge ranching and meat.

  3. I really want to be vegan. I know that we have damaged our bodies and minds and will need years and years to recover even when we do go vegan. It's not a pretty picture. But I believe and hope we can do it and I hope I can get help to get there.

  4. I couldn’t stick to a vegetarian diet. But what I do is to eat more fish and less chicken and beef. I would take KFC or McDonald’s during the weekends. I actually feel a little healthier and my skin is brighter. You guys should try it

  5. I've been a vegetarian for the last 14 years exactly for this. Everytime someone asks me if I did it dor the animals, I reply I did it for me, because I want to live in a world in which I can still breathe and don't get baked in the process.

  6. fish is actually not sustainable so idk, maybe revisit those data again. Mediterranean diets contain a lot of fish, look into where that fish comes from and what its doing to the oceans

  7. nobody ever speaks that the real problem is overpopulation. If we were half the people we could eat 2 kilos of meat a day and nothing would happen.

  8. local pastured cows are good for the planet. CAFO is horrible for the planet (and the cows).
    there used to be 30 million buffalo (very big cows). are you gonna tell me they were bad for
    the planet ? really ? i eat a pound of cow per day. i think i need a little more.

  9. I'm a meat eater I might be going vegan and zero waste

    I want to start a ranch like my aunt and uncle did
    I'm excited for my future now I think I will be happy
    I will be a better person and make a change

  10. Going vegan was the best thing I've done for my health, the planet, and animals. It was way easier than I thought! I only wish I'd done it sooner!!

  11. I'm not going to change my diet only for reducing minimally the climate change. It would be easier to just tell me to plant trees.

  12. Thanks for telling me what foods to avoid. I'm going to go on a diet with the sole intent of causing climate change.
    Population too high? Hurricanes'll clean that up real fast. Deforestation got you down? Most trees love tropical temperatures and a significant increase in carbon dioxide will mean significantly more air for plants to breathe. Want to move to Alaska but it's too cold? Make it a little warmer. Nobody likes city life in the heat, and so global warming will prevent or at least slow down urban sprawl. Developing nations and coastal cities produce most the toxic pollution in our air and oceans, and it just so happens that those two forms of society will be hindered the most by rising sea levels and increasing temperatures.

  13. To reduce the severity from global toxic gas emissions for the generations to come, don't have kids if you don't need to, especially those living in a densely populated area.

  14. I recently showed my mum a lot of facts about global warming, animal agriculture and how our diets have an impact in the environmet. There was no way to convince her to reduce our meat consumption. She believes all are lies. She said "God wouldn't create an animal that harm the planet". I never thought that religion could be a danger for the entire humanity…
    (Sorry if my english is not correct)

  15. I’ve felt so much lighter and looking better since I switched to a mostly plant-based diet several months ago. I still enjoy meat every once in awhile, mostly on the weekends. It’s nice to know it’s having a positive environmental impact too!

  16. How many people know what the Mediterranean diet actually looks like? I wouldn't be surprised to find that a lot of people are just as unfamiliar with that as they are a vegan or plant-based diet. For personal health, I'd say the Mediterranean diet is probably the best and most studied but having tried at various points throughout my life to eat that way, I can also say it's not that easy. It requires cooking almost all your food yourself, as well as planning your oily fish intake carefully to meet Omega needs while making sure you're sourcing fish responsibly and with the right levels of Omegas. The people who eat a traditional Mediterranian diet, come from family and community units that are vastly different from the majority of the US for example. Small farming communities where women are responsible for cooking and meal planning, making sure that everyone is well-fed and keeping food waste to a minimum. It may seem like the less controversial suggestion but in practice, it feels a lot more like saying "don't worry too much, just have a go, we know you probably won't do it anyway". That's not really good enough when we've also been told that eating vegan is the thing we can do that has the single biggest impact on climate. It's also increasingly compatible with the lives of more people living in urban environments who work long hours. There is, of course, planning involved but based on my own experience as someone who lives in a major city, a lot less planning than the Mediterranean diet.

  17. Last night I had homemade veggie soup and fresh bread rolls! I don’t think I could ever go completely vegan or vegetarian but I try to have at least two meat free days a week

  18. those little yellow buses have the same big engine of a normal bus. We have to put a bunch of them on the road greatly increasing carbon emissions and oil consumption. They need their own classrooms, special equipment that causes us to use more natural resources, they pollute more because they are incapable of comprehending why it is wrong. Everywhere they go has to have foam padding on the corners of everything, the manufacturering of that foam is a huge contributor to pollution and gaseous emissions much worse for the atmosphere than carbon monoxide or methane.

  19. I realized I never ate many of the meats all my life except poultry, and I stop eating dairy and eggs because they’re weird. So it wasn’t really that hard to cut my meat consumption in half and only eat meat as 1/4 of my meal when I eat meat.

  20. We cant Chance Climachange …. it just doesnt matters what you do or eat. Only 3% of the CO2 is made by humans. Eat what you want.

  21. Who cares if you don't buy meat or not. Someone else will and thus no actual change will happen, because the meat industry will always have a customer.

  22. lets say people do eat more plant based foods and cut most of the meat out of their diets. But the problem we would be facing then is that we would need to grow way more crops, wich results in more land, wich would result in more deforestation all together and less trees means more carbon dioxide. And that is the big dilema of the climate change. No matter what we do, it allways ends up in one thing – more carbon dioxide in the air. Im not saying that i dont belave that we could fix this but it will be a complicating process witch will require all of the worlds effords

  23. Dont eqt vegetables they are made with chemicals the earth cant handle. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides… all poisons.
    Eat meat and diary, eliminate the veg and fruit and you will flourish and save the earth.

  24. The 1 way to reduce our meat consumption is a higher percentage of our population 100% eating totally vegan. With the awareness there are people who will never “cut back”, the rest of us need to become completely vegan.

  25. Going vegan is the worst thing you can do. 91% of emissions in America for example is not related to diet. All a vegan diet does is allow for more people, it increases the carrying capacity of the earth. We shouldn't be trying to feed more and more people, we should be focused 100% on how to lower birth rates and promote a concept of declining population within a nation and rely on automation to make up for a smaller labor force.

  26. Eating meat is such a part of the American culture to the point that it is unreplaceable. Unreasonable to ask Americans to eat less meat. Probably more reasonable to ask us to eat less sugar than meat. Focuses on having a more sustainable way to raise animal instead of eliminating them.

  27. I’ve been vegetarian for almost a month. It’s not the most fun thing, but I do have sense of lightness/relief. It feels as if I’ve gotten something off of my chest. Even though I miss meat, I understand and I’m willing to make sacrifices for the environment.

  28. Yeah what we eat does affect the planet, but what about the large billionaire carbon emission companies like energy and oil? Please target them more than we target ourselves! 👍

  29. Eat fruit and veg that is out of season and been kept in freezers for months, or if you eat fruit and veg from 1,000's of miles away, brought to your country by ship or plane, then you are creating as much C02 as I am as a meat eater, grown locally, and vegetables that are IN season and NOT imported.

  30. Vegan? You mean Non American! Next their going to say humans farting caused the wildfires and icebergs melting. We are destroying ourselves and figure over populating animals is the answer.

  31. It's a lot easier to go vegan and stay vegan then it is to sustain "reducitarian" or vegetarian, you just need to remember to eat more food than you would normally on the other diets.

  32. but encouraging being a vegetarian to the
    world also means eliminating traditional dishes from around the world.
    So it’s very difficult for people who was born in a country which has a long tradition and history.

  33. I eat meat one to two times a week and I will never stop. Also we would be better off going nuclear to save the planet.

  34. I tried to eat only plans. And was hungry most of the time. Vegan diets I see in the internet look very sophisticated, and many of the ingredients don't even grow here, in Eastern Europe. While I'd like to eat local food, both because of transportation pollution and because of ethical reasons.

  35. Here is a idea if yea people want to help the plant have only one kid our let the responsibilities of having kids go to someone else.

  36. Hit me with anything (need feedback) many of you have gone vegetarian and want to elongate meat consumption but do you guys ever consider that the video did not talk about the world of food culture? Like, the video went straight for climate change but doesn’t talk about the how inportant meat is to other countries and what about the businesses? How are they benefiting from this form of action?

  37. To say that a vegan diet is the most unhealthiest that exists, is so naive.
    Livestock eat plants… and then you eat the animal? Where is the efficiency?

  38. My 2020 goals is to try the "moderation" with a dash of "vegetarian" diet.

    I still believe humans need meat but i don't want to eat it as much as i used to, maybe vegetarian on weekdays and 2 meat meals with normal portion on weekends.
    And of course, avoid all you can eat buffet!

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