You don't have to like masala dosa (though I admit a profound fondness...) to be vegetarian. Ultimately just not including meat in your diet has large climate change mitigation benefits. Photo: Paul Joseph via flickr
It's no secret by now that I'm always recommending that giving up meat eating entirely (or at the minimum, becoming a weekday vegetarian) is one of the strongest personal steps that can be taken towards reducing you personal carbon footprint, as well as your ecological footprint more broadly. At the Copenhagen Climate Congress, Elke Stehfest of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency presented additional evidence that a vegetarian diet, or one at least that radically reduces meat consumption, can have massive climate change mitigation benefits:The gist of Stehfest's presentation was that an area the size of Russia and Canada combined could be freed from use as pasture or cropland used to grow animal feed, if people switched from current levels of meat consumption common in Europe and the United States to a diet based on plant-based protein.
Pastures Would Be Allowed to Regrow as Forest
If this transition of dietary norms was started in 2010 and completed by 2030, and that pasture and cropland was allowed to regrow as forest, it would soak up such large amounts of CO2 that, in combination with the resultant reduction of methane emissions due to the animals themselves, the costs of climate change mitigation would drop by 70% by 2050, as compared to a business-as-usual (maybe 'diet-as-usual' would be better...) scenario.
Even Giving Up Beef & Other Ruminant Meat Yields Large Benefits
Even if large numbers of people stopped eating beef and meat from other ruminant animals and the resultant land freed up to regrow as forest, or even converted to production of biofuels, then climate change mitigation costs would drop by 50%.
Those wishing to read the article in the journal Climate Change, here it is: Climate benefits of changing diet (subscription required)