The Current

Cutting meat from our diet could help fight climate change

There's a relatively easy way to meet our carbon emission goals: Just cut out meat. Livestock and the process that brings it to market accounts for more emissions than those of all vehicles combined. So where's the agricultural attention at those Paris climate change talks?
Livestock accounts for 15% of global emissions, equivalent to all the vehicles in the world. (Pamela/Flickr cc)

With world leaders and their armies of delegates gathered in Paris for the climate change talks right now, there will no doubt be many working lunches and dinners, with negotiations continuing right through their meals.

But as they hash out specifics involving industrial smokestacks and automobile emissions... they should perhaps look down, and focus on what's on their plate. Because if there's meat, it's a high-emitting entrée in its own right.

Livestock accounts for fully 15% of global emissions, according to the U.N.

Canadians eat two to three times more meat then what experts say is healthy. (Chris Marchant/Flickr cc)
And a new study argues that if we could just cut down on our meat consumption, it could be a key to keeping global warming under the target of two degrees Celsius.

Laura Wellesley is a research associate at the British think-tank Chatham House, and the co-author of the study, "Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption." She was in London, England.

To keep us below the dangerous 2 degree mark to stop climate change, experts say global diets have to shift away from meat. (Y'amal/Flickr cc)

When it comes to fighting off climate change with your knife and fork, cutting down on meat can make a difference. But according to Rod MacRae, it's not just what you eat but how it made its way to you that accounts for a critical part of its carbon footprint.

Rod MacRae is an associate professor of environmental studies at York University in Toronto, where he specialises in food policy analysis.

Tamar Haspel is a food columnist with the Washington Post. She's also an oyster farmer. We reached her for some practical thoughts on adjusting our diets. Tamar Haspel was in Cape Cod, Masachussetts.     

Have you changed the way you eat out of environmental concerns... or are you thinking about it?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli and Sarah Grant.

Explaining 'Shmeat' 

Keeping with our theme of meat and the toll it takes on the planet.

Scientists are working hard at developing lab grown meat, or "shmeat" as it's also known, which would have a much smaller environmental impact than traditional meat.

We aired a segment in 2013 on "shmeat" on The Current. Have a listen.

It a burger concocted in a Dutch lab with a collection of Petri dishes and bits of beef muscle tissue. It it works, proponents of so-called Cultured Meat envision a meat alternative that could change farming forever. Of course the jury is out on the taste

Here's an explainer on "shmeat" that was produced by the website,