Eating Less Meat And More Fruit Could Save Lives — And The Planet
• Report says eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
• Global mortality could decline by as much as 10 percent.
• Over a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions arise from food production.
Millions of lives and trillions of dollars could be saved if people the world over ate more fruits and vegetables and less red meat, according to a new study. Such a shift in global eating patterns would also reduce the planetary burden of greenhouse gas emissions and help halt the worst effects of climate change.
The report, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that food-related emissions could fall between 29 and 70 percent by 2050 were the world’s population to adhere to certain dietary guidelines established by global health agencies. Global mortality could drop by as much as 10 percent — preventing as many as 8.1 million deaths per year — and between $1 trillion and $31 trillion could be saved.
If those estimates seem to range pretty widely, it’s for a good reason. Marco Springmann, a research fellow at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the study’s co-author, said the strikingly different estimates reflect a number of different scenarios — for example, a scenario where people simply eat less meat and more produce, versus scenarios where everyone in the world goes vegetarian or vegan. While the latter cases may seem extreme, even a more modest change could dramatically aid humanity, according to the research.
“The size of the projected benefits, even taking into account all of the caveats about the unavoidable sources of uncertainty in our work, should encourage researchers and policy makers to act to improve consumption patterns,” the paper reads.