Does what we eat matter when it comes to climate impacts? Are the vegans right? If we change our diet will we avoid climate change?
That’s the question that Dr. Frank Mitloehner addresses in this short video. Mitloehner, a professor and air quality expert in the Animal Science Department at University of California-Davis, puts into perspective the impact of changes that individuals make and he does the math for us to show what the overall impact on carbon emissions would be if everyone in the United States went vegan.
If Dr. Mitloehner’s name is familiar, it might be because of his work to correct data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on livestock’s carbon emissions. When he looked at the report, he found that while the data used to estimate greenhouse gas production by livestock included emissions from every part of the production cycle, the same was not done for the transportation sector. When information about emissions from oil and gas production, and vehicle manufacturing, etc. were included for the transportation sector, the comparisons were more equal. Second, the figures provided are global and therefore don’t reflect the differences in livestock greenhouse gas emissions in developed vs developing nations. In some areas of the world, the impact of livestock production is much larger than in others. Based on this information, the FAO asked Mitloehner to serve on their steering committee, and also released a corrected report in March of 2010. Unfortunately, many people continue to cite the original version.
You can see Mitloehner talk about his work to correct the FAO report and how U.S. livestock production could be a model for climate efficiency in this On Pasture article.
We also covered the peer reviewed paper Mitloehner mentions on meeting our nutritional needs with a nationwide vegan diet.