Tackling climate change isn’t just about expanding renewable energy or setting up clean public transportation. Changing diets also plays a big role, as food production accounts for up to 30% of the total global emissions. Nevertheless, not that many are aware of that, a new survey showed.
The report “Climate Change and the American Diet” showed that 51% of those surveyed in the US are willing to eat more plant-based foods but claimed not to have sufficient information about the footprint of their food choices.
Up to 70% don’t talk about the link between food and climate change with their friends and family, the report showed. At the same time, almost two-thirds said they were never asked to change to a diet with more plant-based foods – with half of those surveyed claiming to have never heard about this topic in the media.
Only 4% of Americans described themselves as vegan or vegetarian, but up to 20% said to eat plant-based food two to five times a week or even more. About the same percentage of people claimed to avoid companies not addressing their environmental impact.
The findings are part of a national survey done in December 2019 to 1.043 American adults, carried out by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Earth Day Network.
“Many American consumers are interested in eating a healthier and climate-friendly diet,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “However, many simply don’t know yet which products are better or worse — a huge communication opportunity for food producers, distributors and sellers.”
Information wasn’t the only barrier identified by Americans to shift to plant-based diets. As part of the survey costs, taste and accessibility also ranked high. Almost half of those surveyed (49%) think a mean that has a plant-based main course is more expensive than a meal with meat as the main course.
More than four in ten Americans said they dislike the taste of plant-based foods, with two in tree claiming they would be open to eating them instead of meat if they tasted better. At the same time, 77% of those surveyed said to ease and speed of preparation is important when choosing to purchase or eat plant-based food
Changing food production and consumption is critical to reducing the impacts of global warming, but not many made that connection. More than half of those surveyed said meat production only contributed “a little” to global warming. Four in ten Americans think beef doesn’t contribute to global warming at all.
“This data is a wake-up call for the climate movement,” said Jillian Semaan, Food and Environment Director, Earth Day Network. “Animal agriculture is one of the major drivers of our climate crisis, we need to provide people with the relevant information that connects food choices, animal agriculture, and climate change.’
Without drastic changes in the way we eat, use the land and farm, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change will fall short, climate experts have repeatedly warned.
It’s not that you have to completely give up meat (though that can help) — a balanced diet with more plant-based options presents more opportunities to adapt and mitigate climate change. It’s something we should definitely consider, and start talking about more.