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A new study has revealed that men who indulge in meat-heavy diets are responsible for 40% more climate-changing emissions than women. Findings also showed that “optional” food and drink choices contributed to 25% of diet-based emissions. Researchers have concluded that sustainable diets should centre around plant-based foods, with a simultaneous reduction in sweet treats.
The UK study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One, examined emissions linked to over 3,200 specific foods, in conjunction with human diet analysis of 212 participants. They recorded their food and drink intake over three 24-hr periods and animal products were identified as a major emissions contributor. Meat claimed 31% of the average diet’s daily greenhouse gas emissions and dairy, 14%. The study has added weight to expert recommendations that meat and dairy consumption needs to be reduced in order to tackle climate change.
Gender impact on climate change
Breaking down the data, researchers discovered that meat-centric diets led to 59% more emissions than vegetarian ones and men are responsible for 41% more emissions than women. Speculation about this gender split is just that and remains unsubstantiated, but study leader Holly Rippin has some hypotheses.
“We can speculate that it could be because men generally eat more food than women. We could also speculate that men may eat more traditional meat-based diets,” she told The Guardian.
A recent study in Sweden appears to support the findings that gender has an impact on climate change too. It reported that, on average, men’s spending habits cause 16% more emissions than women’s. Though this was attributed to more frequent car use.
Assigning responsibility correctly
The crux of the emissions issue isn’t men but animal product manufacturing, which contributes to 30% of all anthropogenic GHGs. Though men may eat more animal foods, it falls to everybody to reduce intake of meat and dairy items. A common stumbling block to this, however, is cost. In recent years, vegan and vegetarian diets have come under scrutiny for being expensive, but a new report quashes that preconception.
The study compared seven sustainable diets against ‘typical’ ones, across 150 countries. Food prices were taken from the World Bank and used to create a matrix of cost observations, with researchers focussing on whole ingredients. Processed alt proteins and convenience foods were excluded entirely. The study concluded that a vegan diet was the most affordable in high-income countries, offering subscribers up to a 34% reduction in shopping costs. Vegetarian diets came a close second with up to 31%. Conversely, pescatarian diets increased costs by 2%, yet another reason to ditch seafood altogether.
Applying global pressure
After a disappointing COP26 that saw promises but little in the way of plans, studies such as these are critical to apply pressure to world leaders. Earlier in the year, we reported that Hong Kong’s climate action plan has failed to take into account meat consumption, despite the population eating 5.5 times as much as the international average.
In September we published the Meat Atlas 2021 findings, revealing that five of the largest meat and dairy firms are responsible for more emissions than oil conglomerates. The information needed to make a change is already available but crucially, it is too often overlooked. Studies that break down behavior by demographics such as gender can help individuals identify themselves and take responsibility for their part in fighting the climate crisis.
Lead image courtesy of Pexels.