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A Healthy, Climate-Friendly Diet

The single biggest driver of environmental degradation and resource stress today is our changing diet, which is not particularly conducive to human health, either. Just as governments have worked to discourage smoking, so must they encourage citizens to eat a balanced diet – for the sake of their health and that of our planet.

BERLIN – This December, world leaders will meet in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where they will hammer out a comprehensive agreement to reduce carbon emissions and stem global warming. In the run-up to that meeting, governments worldwide should note one critical, but often overlooked, fact: the single biggest driver of environmental degradation and resource stress today is our changing diet – a diet that is not particularly conducive to a healthy life, either.

In recent decades, rising incomes have catalyzed a major shift in people’s eating habits, with meat, in particular, becoming an increasingly important feature of people’s diets. Given that livestock require much more food, land, water, and energy to raise and transport than plants, increased demand for meat depletes natural resources, places pressure on food-production systems, damages ecosystems, and fuels climate change.

Meat production is about ten times more water-intensive than plant-based calories and proteins, with one kilogram of beef, for example, requiring 15,415 liters of water. It is also an inefficient way of generating food; up to 30 crop calories are needed to produce one meat calorie.

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