WASHINGTON — A groundbreaking international analysis published today found that the national dietary guidelines of the G20 countries, including the United States, are helping to drive the planet closer to climate catastrophe.
The report by EAT found that food-related emissions in G20 countries, which host two-thirds of the world’s population, account for 75% of the world’s carbon budget for food.
If these diets were adopted worldwide, it would exceed the planetary boundary for food-related emissions by 263% by 2050, according to the report, which is called Diets for a Better Future: Rebooting and Reimagining Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems in the G20.
Countries like the United States with carbon-heavy dietary patterns must significantly reduce meat and dairy consumption to achieve more equitable food-related emissions within the global carbon budget, the analysis found.
“The American diet is devouring far more than our fair share of food-related emissions,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Food policy is climate policy. We have to stop pretending these are separate issues.”
According the analysis, “Already, agricultural land use dominates about 40% of the Earth’s land surface and has been the principle driver of tropical deforestation, habitat loss and degradation, and global biodiversity loss. Agriculture is also the biggest consumer, and polluter, of the world’s water resources.”
The analysis found that “consumption patterns and dietary recommendations in G20 countries like the United States “are not ambitious enough to bring food systems within planetary boundaries…”
The report concludes that, “Following the current national dietary guidelines of the G20 countries will not ensure global warming stays below 1.5 C.”
In a related matter, on Wednesday the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its scientific report, which will be used to inform the 2020 update to the nation’s dietary guidelines. Although the report briefly mentions sustainability as an issue for future consideration, it fails to emphasize the need for climate-friendly diets that are higher in plant-based foods.
“We urgently need dietary guidance that reflects the reality of our escalating health crisis, the climate emergency and the inequalities in our food system laid bare by the global pandemic,” said Feldstein. “We can’t afford for our dietary guidelines to continue setting the table for climate disaster and food insecurity.”
Earlier this year, research released by the University of Michigan and Tulane University found that replacing 50% of animal products with plant-based foods would prevent more than 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. The Center released a policy guide alongside this study for decision-makers to advance dietary shifts, including through government dietary guidance.