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We must switch to a predominantly plant-based diet to save the planet, says new research from an international team led by the University of Oxford.

The journal Science published the paper. It reveals that slashing our use of fossil fuel use is essential to meet global climate targets. But is not enough unless we also transform the global food system.

Global diet

In fact, scientists say, even if fossil fuel emissions stop immediately, emissions from the global food system alone could increase global temperatures by more than 1.5°C.

The Paris Climate Agreement goal is to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Global temperature increases beyond this will lead to extreme heatwaves, flooding, water scarcity, and more.

We must change ‘what we eat, how much we eat and how much is wasted by 2050. In addition, we must change how food is produced.

Plant-based food is better for the planet

30-45 years

It adds if we continue with current trends, ’emissions from food systems would surpass the 1.5°C target within 30-45 years. In fact, they ‘may exceed the 2°C target within 90 years, even if all other sources of greenhouse gas emissions immediately stopped’. 

If other sources of greenhouse gas emissions reached zero by 2050, we would surpass the 1.5°C target in 10-20 years and, in addition, the 2°C target by the end of the century.

“The research makes clear that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food systems will require coordinated action. Across sectors and between national governments. 

“However, the changes would have additional benefits. For example, reducing water pollution and scarcity. Also increasing biodiversity, and reducing the rate of diet-related health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.”

‘Predominantly plant-based’

Dr. Michael Clark is from The Oxford Martin School and Nuffield Department of Population Health. In a statement sent to PBN, he said: “Discussions on mitigating climate change typically focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, for instance, from transportation or energy production. 

“However, our research emphasizes the importance of reducing emissions from the global food system.”

He added that there are ‘are many achievable ways rapidly to reduce food emissions’ if we act on them quickly. These include ‘raising crop yields and reducing food loss and waste’.

But, he concluded: “The most important is for individuals to shift towards predominantly plant-based diets.”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is a news and features writer for Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. She was previously the editor of Plant Based News for over 3 years.