Climatarian is an easy diet that’s good for the climate, good for nature and good for you.
Food causes 20-30% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
Meat causes far higher emissions than plant based food. But not all meats have the same impact.
Beef and lamb/goat cause much higher GHG emissions than other animal based foods.
Kg CO2e per Kg food
Source: Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK, Scarborough et al 2014, Scarborough, P., Appleby, P.N., Mizdrak, A. et al. Climatic Change (2014) 125: 179.
Beef and lamb stand out among over 90 food groups
More than half the world’s crops are used to feed animals.
And crops for animals produce more of the worst greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, than crops for people.
Nitrous oxide is released by fertilisers and manure and is hundreds of times more potent than CO2. The UN climate change body has called for deep cuts to nitrous oxide.
Pound for pound, beef and lamb have a far higher climate impact than pork and poultry.
Grazing animals who chew the cud like cattle, sheep, goats and deer, are known as ruminants, and have a much higher climate impact than other livestock. Food is fermented in their four stomach digestive system, so they burp methane gas. They also use more land, need more energy intensive feed and produce more manure than pigs or chickens. This all adds up to much more intense greenhouse gas emissions per kg of food.
So an easy way to reduce the climate impact of your diet is to go Climatarian, avoiding beef and lamb. But you can continue to eat pork, poultry and a moderate amount of sustainable fish for an easy mixed diet.
Let’s look at some other climate friendly diets:
If you want to choose the best diet for the planet go vegan. There is no question that a completely plant based diet has the lowest carbon impact.
The next best thing to vegan is a vegetarian diet including dairy products and eggs. However the US Environmental Working Group, which has done a lot of work in this area, finds that a diet which excludes cheese and includes chicken is more climate friendly.
Adding fish to an otherwise vegetarian diet is considered to have only a 2.5% increased climate impact. However is there really such a thing as sustainable fish? Concerns about over fishing, PCBs, farmed fish welfare and the impact of fish farm waste and diseases spreading to wild fish make this a highly controversial area.
There is now widespread agreement on the climate impact of ruminant meat: lamb, goat and particularly beef.
Simply avoiding ruminant meat cuts 3/4 of your meat emissions. You can reduce your carbon even further with healthy, low carbon options:
- cut down on meat overall
- shop carefully to avoid food waste
- shun energy intensive air freight food
- choose seasonal, local and fresh food
- save energy on heating greenhouses, refrigeration and transport.