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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: To Address Hunger, Many Countries May Have To Increase Carbon Footprint

Achieving an adequate, healthy diet in most low- and middle-income countries will require a substantial increase in greenhouse gas emissions and water use due to food production, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future based, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The paper was published online September 16 in the journal Global Environmental Change.

By recognizing the role of food production in climate change, this study examines the challenges of simultaneously addressing hunger and the climate crisis at both the individual and country levels.

For their analysis, the researchers developed a model that assessed how alterations to dietary patterns across 140 countries would impact individual- and country-level greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater use. They used this model to assess the per capita and whole country climate and water footprints of nine plant-forward diets. The plant-forward diets examined ranged from no red meat, pescatarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and vegan, among others.

A key finding of the study showed that a diet in which the animal protein came predominantly from low food chain animals, such as small fish and mollusks, had nearly as low of an environmental impact as a vegan diet. Researchers also determined that a diet that involved reducing animal food consumption by two-thirds — termed by study authors as “two-thirds vegan” — generally had a lower climate and water footprint than the more traditional lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

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