If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it one thousand times … every single person has the ability to influence the world for the better. While it might not seem like an incredibly significant part of your life, your diet actually has the power to literally save the world. And no, we’re not talking about your New Year, New You diet … although, this simple switch would be a great way to kick start 2015.

A new report from Chatham House, a UK-based thinktank, has revealed that not only are the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the meat and dairy industry off the charts (and not in a good way), but most consumers have no idea how much eating these products impacts the planet. And why would they?!

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The animal agriculture industry works really hard to make sure we keep buying more meat and cheese, by hiding the cruelty associated with producing millions of pounds of animal products … so why would their transparency about the environmental impact of these things be any different?

Consumers Have NO CLUE That Eating Meat is Destroying the Environment. Why We Need to Change That ... ASAP

 

The study polled 12,000 people across 12 countries and found that only 29 percent of people considered meat and dairy production as a major contributor to climate change. Around 64 percent named transport exhaust emissions as the major contributor.

We can’t say we’ve tried this, but we can guess that a cheese label that reads, “Cheese Makes Your Bones Strong (j.k. no it doesn’t) and Adds 401 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide to the Atmosphere Per Person, Every Year! ” … chances are you wouldn’t jump to stock up on gruyere. But, of course, we’re not food marketing experts.

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But, regardless of where the information gap has occurred, Chatham House’s study demonstrates that when it comes to assessing how our actions impact the planet, most people are looking in the wrong place. While cutting your energy use and switching to more efficient modes of transportation are incredible ways to lessen your impact on the planet, according to Chatham House’s findings, if we don’t start to cut our consumption of meat and dairy (globally), we’re cooked. Quite literally.

Here’s why.

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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent. Between the deforestation that occurs to make space for grazing cattle and to grow crops that will become livestock feed, coupled with the emissions associated with the animals and actual running of facilities, the impact of the livestock sector cannot be overlooked. As meat and dairy consumption increases on a global scale, so does this impact.

The authors of the study concluded that if we don’t change our consumption habits, international goals to keep the global temperature rise under two degrees would be completely “off the table.”

Meat consumption is on target to increase by 75 percent by 2050 and dairy consumption will be up by 65 percent. The study’s authors also explain that even if we were to switch all livestock production methods to have the lowest impact possible, it would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector by 32 percent. While that might seem like s significant reduction, it is not enough to offset the rising amount of emissions associated with growing demand for meat and dairy.

But, the good news is that emissions can be reduced directly based on consumer demand. The silver-lining of Chatham House’s findings was that individuals who were made aware of the impact that livestock has on the environment demonstrated a high willingness to change their consumption habits accordingly.

As one of the study’s authors states, “The research does not show everyone has to be a vegetarian to limit warming to two degrees,” but shifting your personal diet to be predominantly plant-based will have the highest impact.

The fact is, if we don’t start to shift away from meat and dairy, we will never be able to reach the climate change mitigation goals that are necessary to preserve life as we know it. When you know you can make sure an amazing, positive difference (to the planet and your health), just by eating more vegetables and grains and less meat and dairy … why wouldn’t you?

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By leaving meat off your plate, you can half your personal carbon footprint. Not too shabby.

Why not kick things off on a tasty note? Check out these awesome plant-based recipes and learn how easily helping the planet can be!

Image source: DailyNewsDigs.com