President Biden announced last Thursday the US is aiming to cut greenhouse emissions in half by 2030 and to have zero emissions by 2050.
It is part of a wider target set by nations who signed up to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord – which Biden rejoined when he took office – to limit global temperatures warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next century.
Biden’s plan includes broad plans and huge investments including $174billion on electric car development, $85billion to modernize US transit, and $10billion on climate corps.
But the president didn’t outline how this may impact everyday Americans.
The United Kingdom, whose leaders want to reduce emissions by 78 percent by 2030, have told their citizens to cut meat consumption by a fifth over the next decade.
They also want to ban new fossil fuel cars – including hybrids – by 2033, and urged citizens to spend up to $13,000 on making their homes more environmentally friendly and reduce international travel.
Even though the White House hasn’t gone into detail about what Americans will need to do to help meet its goal, moves from other countries, scientific studies. and academic journals suggest a change in lifestyle may be needed.
President Biden announced that the US is aiming to cut greenhouse emissions in half by 2030 and to have zero emissions by 2050. Even though the White House hasn’t gone into detail about what Americans will need to do to help meet its goal, moves from other countries, scientific studies and academic journals suggest a change in lifestyle may be needed
Last week, before Biden’s climate summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to reduced emissions by 78 percent on 1990 levels by 2035.
The government’s advisory Climate Change Committee (CCC) in December 2020 said that delivering on these targets will mean radical changes including an end to heating homes with gas boilers, lower meat and dairy consumption.
Target – Cut meat and dairy consumption by a fifth over the next decade
Impact – Someone who has meat for every three meals could only do this twice a week under the new plans.
Similarly, the average Briton would need to shave a fifth of the average milk consumption down to 16ml a day – or roughly three teaspoons.
Target – Ban new fossil-fueled cars – including hybrids – by 2033
Impact – The average cost of buying a new electric car in the UK is $61,183, according to industry figures.
Target – Ban the sale of oil-fired boilers by 2028 and gas boilers by 2033; require all homes to be insulated.
Impact – Energy efficiency measures – such as improving insulation and installing low carbon boilers – could cost $13,000 per home.
Target – Stop expanding UK airport capacity and impose a frequent flyer levy with the aim of reducing the number of flights by 15 percent.
Impact – The average Briton currently takes 10 foreign holidays every five years, which would need to reduce to around eight. This is the equivalent of around three foreign holidays every two years.
In January 2020, New Zealand introduced its new climate change curriculum into schools, urging students to eat less meat and dairy.
The report pointed to intensive agriculture as one of the primary causes of greenhouse gases and urged students to have a meatless day a week, eat more fruit and vegetables.
It also suggested driving less, recycling and buying second hand when possible.
Farmers in a nation where more than 60 percent of exports are from agriculture feel they were unnecessarily targeted.
‘If they are going to continue to bite the hand that feeds them, and farming feeds New Zealand, then they are going to lose out in the long term,’ dairy farmer Malcolm Lumsden from the country’s northern Waikato region told Reuters.
In 2020, the Indian government recommended a plant-based diet to help fight climate change.
In 2019, the Italian government made climate change mandatory in climate schools to make ‘environment and society at the core of everything’ children learn in schools.
Other nations have suggested diet changes, but have steered clear of dictating what people eat.
In 2013, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said livestock supply chains account for 15.5 percent of all human caused green house has emission releases.
This adds up to 7.1 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) per year.
In 2019, the UN released a report saying there needs to be a drastic change in global land use, agriculture and human diets to curb emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said plant-based diets would cut emissions.
By 2050, dietary changes could free up several million square miles of land and reduce global emissions
Hans-Otto Pörtner, an ecologist who co-chairs the IPCC’s working group on impacts told Nature.com: ‘We don’t want to tell people what to eat. But it would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect.’
SCIENTIFIC STUDIES AND ACADEMICS
Michigan University’s Center for Sustainable Systems released a study suggesting that Americans may have to cut red meat by 90 percent to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by half by 2030.
To do that, it would require Americans to only consume about four pounds of red meat per year, or 0.18 ounces per day.
Climate initiatives in Biden’s $2trillion infrastructure plan
$85billion to modernize existing transit and help agencies expand their systems to meet rider demand
$174billion on electric car development
$111billion to replace lead pipes and service lines and to modernize drinking water and sewer systems
$100billion to protect nature-based infrastructure – lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resource; to build up electrical system; expand tax credits for clean energy generation and storage; plug orphan oil wells and mines; and redevelop Superfund sites
$40billion to improve the infrastructure of the public housing system in America
$100billion to upgrade electrical grid
$100billion to upgrade and build new public schools
$10billion in the modernization, sustainability, and resilience of federal buildings
$35billion investment in climate science
$10billion for a new Civilian Climate Corps
It equates to consuming roughly one average sized burger per month.
A November 2020 report in the Science academic journal found that emissions from food production alone would make it impossible to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. This is the goal set out by the Biden administration and in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.
In 2018 a study from the same journal found that meat, eggs, dairy and aquaculture products (fish) contribute to up to 58 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while only providing a 37 percent of protein and 18 percent of calories to our diets.
An EAT-Lancet report on recommended eating just 12 percent – or 300 calories – worth of animal protein based on the recommended daily 2,500 calories. That is based off CO2 emissions reaching zero by 2050.
The report also recommends a ‘low food chain’ diet that combines plant-based food with climate-friendly proteins such as small fish, mollusks and insects.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America released a study in 2019 stating that reducing meat consumption in higher income countries – such as the United States is ‘vital to protect the environment and improve public health’.
In 2018, Michigan State University conducted a national survey that suggested millennials and Gen Z are already embracing plant-based alternatives.
The survey found one-third of 2,100 Americans would be likely to purchase cultured meat – or products produced in a lab without having to slaughter animals.
Janet Ranganathan told Carbon Brief in September 2020 that ruminant meat (mostly beef) supplies only 3 percent of calories and 12 percent if protein, but contributes to roughly half the average person’s diet related to greenhouse gas emissions.
Ruminant meat comes from animals – including cattle – who mainly eat plant-based food in order to digest. The word ‘ruminant’ comes from the Latin ruminaire, which means to ‘chew over again’.
A July 2020 report in Sustainability found that most countries are reluctant to address meat and dairy consumption in diets and an analysis by the World Wildlife Fund in August the same year concluded that most nations focus on food production and waste rather than diet.
PAST COMMENTS FROM THE ADMINISTRATION
In 2019, Kamala Harris said she would support changing dietary guidelines in the US to reduced the amount of red meat.
She was asked at a CNN Town Hall: ‘Would you support changing the dietary guidelines? Reduce red meat specifically?’
‘Yes, I would,’ she replied.
The federal diet guidelines do not mandate what people can eat. They can only address federal programs such as school lunches.
A 2018 Gallup poll found that the number of people in America identifying as vegetarian has stayed the same for the last 20 years – only around 5 percent. Only 3 percent identify as vegans.
Per capita meat consumption has also been rising in the US – despite the huge increase in plant-based options and meat alternatives such as Impossible products.