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 climate.universityofcalifornia.edu or watch one of our other episodes to discover
what happened when I brought a box of donuts to MIT.

Stephen Childs


  1. Looking at all that food, I just realized I’m pretty hungry right now.

  2. I’m going vegetarian this week and I’m going to put the video up on my yt channel so subscribe if u want to see it 🙂

  3. Yes but they come in 400g or 500g packages. So as a single person I don't wanna spent full price and throw half away

  4. I guess nearly wiping out 60 million buffalo in the 19th century is now considered a good thing. We may have been another degree warmer by now.  Bison, like the UN, are quite gassy.

  5. Lone Wolf I can’t find where your comment is re you saying I ‘must be French or French speaking’ cos I used the term ‘Legumes’. I am English and English speaking, and Legumes is just the name used for a Pod that contains Peas and other Seeds. It is used in English as standard!

  6. Thanks for this Vox. I was looking for some clear info and numbers. I'll be adressing my diet.

  7. Pescatarian here. 👋 Thanks for saying what I’ve been saying for years.

  8. I don’t eat a lot of meat (due to my family being vegetarian – although occasionally I eat chicken and I often eat tuna or salmon) so I’ve always felt a bit healthier. All I need now is more fruits and veggies.

  9. I have gone vegetarian/pescetarian and try to only eat foods that are in season or produced/made in Sweden because I believe that you have to be awarer of were your food also comes from

  10. Cows been on earth for a long time now and they are a problem. This is racist

  11. I know someone who never eat meat now he is dead. People just don't eat. I will keep eating meat

  12. That's why from the ancient time India follows a Vegetarian diet as well as we don't eat beef

  13. Messages like this one are very important. Not everyone can or wants to go vegan. It's much better to cut back on meat consumption for 15-20 years than to be vegan for 5 months.

  14. It's also important to consider how each person's financial and medical position factors into this. Depending on where you are and where your food is coming from, particularly your meat can restrict your diet. If you come from a low-income household, and cannot fund a vegetarian, or even Mediterranean lifestyle, that's important to take into account. Fast food restaurants make meat easy, cheap, and filling, perfect for low-income people. If you medically need some of the nutrients found most commonly in meat, such as if your body doesn't process magnesium correctly, so you have to have more than the average person just to actually receive what you actually need, then meat is a great option, especially in places like the USA where healthcare is often too expensive to be a realistic method. I'm not advocating against not eating meat, I myself am a vegetarian for the reason of how wasteful meat is, but it's important to take into account that everyone has different factors affecting their diet.

  15. This is great but we should think about jobs that are generated from meat production. So we should not stop eating meat all at once rather it must be a slow transition if we are moving towards a future without meat.

  16. I'm going to attempt to cut out all red meats! I plan on going vegetarian but I wanna start off slow!/^^ This video gave me some good ideas on what I should do 😀

  17. So if north Korea nukes America it will help reduce the global warming.

  18. unfortunately, the best way to make sure that Americans double down on doing something bad is to tell them that they may have to make a small personal sacrifice to benefit humanity

  19. I’m trying to get educated on this so can someone pls explain it to me a bit more clearly? I’ve been vegetarian for almost a year now for personal reasons but I didn’t get this very much. How do cows affect the air? Pls no rude comments I’m really trying to learn.

  20. I would not go vegan because it's just not a diet for me, but I am aware of the issues surrounding the livestock industry, and know that people are consuming too much meat. I respect vegans as long as they're not pretentious and arrogant about it. I just think the resolution is to just decrease our focus on livestock and make more carbon efficient foods cheaper, which is another factor that healthier more environment friendly food is expensive.

  21. You know a better diet? Eating the ceo's of the big companies that make most of the poluting

  22. Yet globally meat eating is exponentially on the rise since the population of China and India are becoming wealthier.

  23. Personally, I'm not vegan or vegetarian. I do, however only way meat once, maybe twice a week. It's easy. Start by Eating one plant based meal a week, and build off of that. You don't have to completely restrict yourself, cause you can still eat meat. Besides, less meat it better for you anyways.

  24. I don't have money so i don't have to pay a lot for food and i prefer walking instead of paying for transportation.

  25. I’m pescatarian and I don’t know when my mom will allow me to go vegan 🙁

  26. EXCELENTE VIDEO! a todos los que hablan español, visiten nuestro canal 99×100 miles de datos sobre educación nutricional en tu idioma, salud y suerte

  27. There are also local pollution issues with meat to consider, the waste product and the waste product of their slaughter both contribute to local pollution that can case an area problems.

  28. What did you have for dinner last night: raaaaaaaaamen noodles

  29. Im Vegan for 22 years and being 52 years old and love it !! And UN has prove that Animal Agriculture is the biggest destruction of our Universe !! Small things can make a big Impacts

  30. Is there access to the mentioned list with impact of different foods?

  31. The best thing you can do for climate change is to NOT HAVE KIDS! The amount of Co2 produced by having one child vs eating meat is significantly more 🌎

  32. also try to eat local products as much as you can!! going vegan/vegetarian may sound like the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, but when most of the stuff you eat is brought in a plane from the other side of the world it is not as environmentally friendly. I was planning to go vegan to help the environment once i lived on my own, but after reading about how much fuel and waste goes into the transportation of international products I decided that consuming local products was the way to go. I still plan on quitting red meat completely and focus on a plant-base diet, but trying my best to just buy what is sold in my local farm's market. (I also plan on growing some veggies myself!)

  33. here while all north American and european are switching to healthy less carbon emissions diet there in asia people are munching up ton and ton of meat

  34. Ik we've come down to a situation where we're almost helpless about not eating meat or non-veg. But I wish everyone could understand that whichever side you lean to, it'll put pressure there. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Today most people consume meat. But if everyone takes the life decision to balance food in their diet, trust me it would be much more healthier for anyone. But I really appreciate people going vegan or vegetarian. It's the need of hour now!

  35. i have stopped eating red meat. i eat chicken mostly because fish is expensive as a college student and chicken is the best way i know to fulfill my need of protein in a way that doesn't contribute to the problem but also doesnt break the bank. veggie & turkey burgers, here i come! i am also in the process of going dairy free, i have found a good milk alternative (almond milk) but im still struggling to find a replacement for yoghurts and cheeses (although i eat those much less)

  36. Imagine if suddenly 8 billion people change their diet to vegan, that's hardly a better CO2 balance 🙂

  37. Part of the agenda, as Henry Kissinger said Control resources and you control the country, if you control the food you control the people…welcome to AGENDA 21

  38. I dont see how being vegan helps the environment there are still farms with cows still producing methane

  39. Leaning harder on fisheries is NOT a solution. It's estimated that most fisheries will collapse in this century.

    Come on Vox.

    how many people have to stop eating meat in order to make the climate stop changing?

  41. I’m going step by step. I already cut out beef. Next is pork. For now, my goal is not going vegan. It sounds too intimidating for me at the moment. I am aiming for lacto-ovo-vegetarian.

  42. Woah I took a class last fall with Ben Houlton! Such a cool dude with an endless supply of dad jokes

  43. Issue isnt the industry, humans in general are the problem. There are waayy tooooo many people on this planet.

  44. the reason beef dropped so much is because americans switched to chicken lol. that graph would have been a lot more accurate if you used meat consumption numbers in general, not just beef. cause i'm sure the graph would have risen then.

  45. I stopped eating meat because of global warming. I found out the massive impact I was having on the environment and I had to stop.

  46. How is a vegan diet not much better than a vegetarian diet… cows? Didn’t you just say they are the problem…. we’ll milk and cheese comes from cows.

  47. The best thing you can do for your comfort and for the environment is to limit meats and eat a lot of breads and plants. Be a vegetarian or a healthy meat eater. There are very healthy meat recipes out there. And can you love animals while eating meat? YES you can

  48. 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

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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

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