Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 21, 2023


Mark Rifkin, Center for Biological Diversity, (410) 227-6161,

Analysis: Plant-Based Diets Are Key to Climate Change Emergency Response

TUCSON, Ariz.— A new scientific review by the Center for Biological Diversity finds that plant-based diets can help ease the public health challenges of climate-fueled environmental emergencies. The review also found that federal nutrition policy falls far short of preparing the public for the health and environmental crises they face.

“Most people in the United States have at least one diet-related chronic disease, and that makes them extremely vulnerable in a disaster,” said Mark Rifkin, senior food and agriculture policy specialist at the Center and author of the review. “We know the next climate-related disaster is just around the corner. We have no choice but to improve our diets to better respond and adapt to these emergencies.”

The review, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, found that many healthcare systems are regularly overwhelmed. The ever-increasing flood of climate-fueled disasters compounds that stress, pushing the system past its breaking point.

This is especially true in marginalized communities whose ability to respond during environmental emergencies may be impaired by food insecurity and a higher prevalence of chronic disease. People with diabetes, for example, may lose safe storage for insulin, which requires refrigeration. And healthcare systems in general may be unable to provide quality care during a disaster.

Healthy plant-based diets not only improve risks for diseases like diabetes and heart disease, but they reduce the demand on a stressed healthcare system. The analysis found that switching to a plant-based diet improves personal health, eases climate change, reduces the risks for another pandemic, and facilitates a better healthcare response to the next inevitable crisis. But such a shift requires a change in federal nutrition policy.

“Many Americans don’t realize their ability to survive the next flood, wildfire, or pandemic may directly depend on the food that’s on their plate,” said Rifkin. “The federal government can’t ignore its responsibility to ensure that federal food policies encourage better diets, improve food security, and save lives.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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