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The diet that helps fight climate change

I have to admit that when it comes to food,
I’m a total sucker. Whether it’s sugar or grease or carbs, pretty
much bring it on! And I spend a lot of time in Montana, so for
me, that medium rare, grass fed ribeye steak? Pretty much as good as it gets. I know. I don’t do it often and when I do, I gotta
admit I feel a little conflicted. And that’s for a lot of reasons, including
the planet. But how big of a problem is what I eat? I mean, does it really make much of a dent
in something as huge as global warming? It turns out, what we put on our plates matters
a lot. About 25 percent of all the global climate
change problems we’re seeing can be attributed back to the food and the choices that we’re
actually making about what we eat on a daily basis. This is greater than all of the cars on the
planet. In fact, it’s about twice as much global
warming pollution as the cars. Ben Houlton and Maya Almaraz study the connection
between climate and diet at the University of California, Davis. They track how the way we produce food creates
greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. With their data, the team has crunched the
numbers to figure out how much carbon pollution is produced by different foods and different
diets. A lot of people feel really helpless when
it comes to climate change, like they can’t make a difference. And what our research is showing is that your
personal decisions really can have a big impact. So, take that grass fed ribeye steak I love. If you really look at everything that went
into making a single serving of beef, you end up emitting about 330 grams of carbon. That’s like driving a car three miles. Now, if I choose to have chicken instead,
there’s more than a five-fold drop in emissions. Switch to fish and you see the number go down
even more. Now, look at veggies. If I swapped beef out entirely for lentils,
well, I’m down to practically nothing! So, why does beef and lamb, too, for that
matter – pack such a powerful punch to the planet? Livestock accounts for a little over 14 percent
of global greenhouse gas emissions. If that sort of seems low to you, consider
it’s about equal to transportation. We’re talking all the cars, trucks, planes,
trains and ships on the planet combined! This is partly because ruminant animals like
cows and sheep – they’re just gassy! And the methane they produce is at least 25
times more potent than carbon dioxide. Plus it takes lot of land, fertilizer and
about a billion tons of grain to feed all that livestock. And you could feed 3.5 billion people with
that grain; if we were just directly eating these grains ourselves, it would eliminate
a lot of the CO2 that is emitted from cattle production. So it’s clear that meat has a pretty big
carbon load, but it’s also worth remembering that not all livestock is raised equally. In parts of the American West, for instance,
ranchers are working to raise livestock in ways that actually help restore the land. And they’re experimenting with ways that
soil and grasslands can be used to keep carbon pollution out of the air. But even these sustainable ranchers will really
tell you, we’re probably eating too much meat. I know a lot of people who if you don’t
serve them meat for lunch or dinner, they’re kind of like “well, when is the meat coming out?” It’s to the point now where the U.S. actually
has one of the highest meat footprints per capita. So, what about not eating meat at all? Vegan is the way to go for the least impact
on the planet, but it’s not that much different, in terms of emissions, than say, a vegetarian
diet. And the team found that the environmental
impact of the Mediterranean diet is pretty similar to vegan and vegetarian diets. It’s a lot less meat-heavy than what Americans
are used to – so, fish and poultry a few times a week; beef maybe once a month, plenty of
plant-based foods, and of course, loads of olive oil. Eliminating like 90 percent of your meat intake
is more important than eliminating all of your meat. We don’t all have to be vegan. We don’t all even have to be vegetarian. If we can just reduce our meat intake, every
little bit helps. And if you can bring it down a lot, you can
help the climate a lot. If we all just switched to a Mediterranean
diet, it could actually solve 15 percent of global warming pollution by 2050. If everyone were to move towards it, that
is equivalent to taking somewhere around a billion cars off of the streets, in terms
of vehicle emissions each year. So, that kind of a footprint is big-time. But say you still want more meat than the
Mediterranean diet recommends? Just cutting down your portion size to the
doctor-recommended 4 ounces can reduce your emissions by half. That’s huge! In fact, the doctors are telling us we’re
eating about twice as much meat as we really need for a healthy diet. The good news is, we are listening to our
doctors. In the last decade, there’s been a 19 percent
drop in the amount of beef we eat. All these things that you’re already being
told are good for you also happen to be good for the planet. So what we eat really is a big part of the
climate puzzle. I mean, we may not all be able to afford an
electric car or putting solar panels on our house, but we all have to eat every day. And these choices we make can add up to really
big numbers. And since meat has a pretty big carbon load,
we need to be thoughtful about how much we eat. As for that ribeye steak that I really love,
I am honestly trying to cut back! Maybe it’s just a smaller piece of steak;
or simply swapping out a meat dish for a veggie burger. It may seem like a small thing, but it really
does add up to big impacts. Hey, so what did you have for dinner last
night? Find out how your choices are affecting global
warming by taking a quiz at or watch one of our other episodes to discover
what happened when I brought a box of donuts to MIT.

Randall Smitham



  1. yass girl Posted on August 27, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    I loved this video!!!

  2. 99x100 Posted on August 28, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    EXCELENTE VIDEO! a todos los que hablan español, visiten nuestro canal 99×100 miles de datos sobre educación nutricional en tu idioma, salud y suerte

  3. first last Posted on August 29, 2019 at 12:07 am

    There are also local pollution issues with meat to consider, the waste product and the waste product of their slaughter both contribute to local pollution that can case an area problems.

  4. Don’t-hate- Appreciate Posted on August 29, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    What did you have for dinner last night: raaaaaaaaamen noodles

  5. Antonio Alves Posted on August 29, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Im Vegan for 22 years and being 52 years old and love it !! And UN has prove that Animal Agriculture is the biggest destruction of our Universe !! Small things can make a big Impacts

  6. AntoineIbanezgio Posted on August 30, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Is there access to the mentioned list with impact of different foods?

  7. PuppyLove1105 Posted on August 30, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    The best thing you can do for climate change is to NOT HAVE KIDS! The amount of Co2 produced by having one child vs eating meat is significantly more 🌎

  8. LuukaRLie Posted on August 30, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    also try to eat local products as much as you can!! going vegan/vegetarian may sound like the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, but when most of the stuff you eat is brought in a plane from the other side of the world it is not as environmentally friendly. I was planning to go vegan to help the environment once i lived on my own, but after reading about how much fuel and waste goes into the transportation of international products I decided that consuming local products was the way to go. I still plan on quitting red meat completely and focus on a plant-base diet, but trying my best to just buy what is sold in my local farm's market. (I also plan on growing some veggies myself!)

  9. Jamilynn Cavallo Posted on August 31, 2019 at 7:04 am

    Why is this just now showing up on people’s feeds 🥺

  10. ren Posted on August 31, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    I started being vegetarian this week! Please wish me luck!!

  11. Jeffrey Tan Posted on August 31, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    here while all north American and european are switching to healthy less carbon emissions diet there in asia people are munching up ton and ton of meat

  12. Danielle Silvero Posted on August 31, 2019 at 11:36 pm


  13. Shruti B Posted on September 1, 2019 at 5:53 am

    Ik we've come down to a situation where we're almost helpless about not eating meat or non-veg. But I wish everyone could understand that whichever side you lean to, it'll put pressure there. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Today most people consume meat. But if everyone takes the life decision to balance food in their diet, trust me it would be much more healthier for anyone. But I really appreciate people going vegan or vegetarian. It's the need of hour now!

  14. mael adzalla Posted on September 1, 2019 at 8:01 am

    Have been pescetarian for a year noe

  15. rahchel lin Posted on September 1, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    It is also cheaper to eat less meat !!

  16. elena kk Posted on September 1, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    i have stopped eating red meat. i eat chicken mostly because fish is expensive as a college student and chicken is the best way i know to fulfill my need of protein in a way that doesn't contribute to the problem but also doesnt break the bank. veggie & turkey burgers, here i come! i am also in the process of going dairy free, i have found a good milk alternative (almond milk) but im still struggling to find a replacement for yoghurts and cheeses (although i eat those much less)

  17. Loreto Ines De Pablo Garcia Posted on September 1, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    That’s Mediterranean diet for yah

  18. Kian Posted on September 2, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    Wild Game is 0 emissions. Oh no! Conflicted vegans 😂

  19. Nanu Ni Posted on September 2, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    I eat no meat since 3 years only fish and I don’t drive a car . 👏👍😊

  20. Joshua Matthew M. Samarita Posted on September 3, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    I will feed that to my children, but I'm not gonna eat it.

  21. Michael Walsh Posted on September 4, 2019 at 4:01 am

    We obviously need to genetically engineer cows to hold in their farts.

  22. Sab Sab Posted on September 4, 2019 at 6:39 am

    Imagine if suddenly 8 billion people change their diet to vegan, that's hardly a better CO2 balance 🙂

  23. The End Posted on September 4, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Best solution: control world population increase

  24. alfred belleza Posted on September 4, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    livestock aint just 14% contributor to greenhouse emissions its more than 18%

  25. Jean-Pierre Rouhana Posted on September 5, 2019 at 12:17 am

    I love this guy

  26. arielle wilfred Posted on September 5, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Vegetarian might be proud of this

  27. Josh Smith Posted on September 5, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    99% of people in this comment section are just priceless.

  28. Marissa Anderson Posted on September 6, 2019 at 1:37 am

    sorry can't I'm Mexican

  29. Monster Man Posted on September 6, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Part of the agenda, as Henry Kissinger said Control resources and you control the country, if you control the food you control the people…welcome to AGENDA 21

  30. UurdChuluut Negen Posted on September 7, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Go Vegan to Save the World

  31. U.S Border patrol Posted on September 8, 2019 at 3:41 am

    I dont see how being vegan helps the environment there are still farms with cows still producing methane

  32. David Owle Posted on September 8, 2019 at 4:42 am

    Leaning harder on fisheries is NOT a solution. It's estimated that most fisheries will collapse in this century.

    Come on Vox.

  33. Kefin Janitra Posted on September 8, 2019 at 5:05 am


  34. Blah Smith Posted on September 8, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    But steak tastes so niiiceeee xD

  35. Waluigi 420 Posted on September 8, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    I’ll be a meat eater forever you cannot change my mind

  36. ely factor Posted on September 9, 2019 at 1:49 am

    Just because you stop eating food doesn’t mean they stop killing animals

  37. Skanky Handmaid Posted on September 9, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    I am not willing to give up meat to save the planet.

  38. Jenn smith Posted on September 9, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    how many people have to stop eating meat in order to make the climate stop changing?

  39. Jenn smith Posted on September 9, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    what about cannibalism to save the planet??

  40. I’m Sailor Posted on September 10, 2019 at 4:50 am

    1 month without red meat!! Never felt better, hoping to go dairy free soon!

  41. Scarlet Bailey Posted on September 10, 2019 at 7:31 am

    I’m going step by step. I already cut out beef. Next is pork. For now, my goal is not going vegan. It sounds too intimidating for me at the moment. I am aiming for lacto-ovo-vegetarian.

  42. MYRANDANG Posted on September 10, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Woah I took a class last fall with Ben Houlton! Such a cool dude with an endless supply of dad jokes

  43. Jesse Zijlstra Posted on September 12, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Issue isnt the industry, humans in general are the problem. There are waayy tooooo many people on this planet.

  44. xEnjoyTheMoment Posted on September 12, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    the reason beef dropped so much is because americans switched to chicken lol. that graph would have been a lot more accurate if you used meat consumption numbers in general, not just beef. cause i'm sure the graph would have risen then.

  45. Kelly S Posted on September 12, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Love Dr. M. Sanjayan!! One of Vox's best hosts!!

  46. Sam Packer Posted on September 13, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Did anyone else just read
    The Omnivore's Dilemma?

  47. bek flood Posted on September 13, 2019 at 8:15 am

    I stopped eating meat because of global warming. I found out the massive impact I was having on the environment and I had to stop.

  48. Marcus Ryder Posted on September 14, 2019 at 2:55 am

    How is a vegan diet not much better than a vegetarian diet… cows? Didn’t you just say they are the problem…. we’ll milk and cheese comes from cows.

  49. parmida The Extra Posted on September 15, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Veganism is the future!

  50. X1 Gen KaneshiroX Posted on September 15, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    The best thing you can do for your comfort and for the environment is to limit meats and eat a lot of breads and plants. Be a vegetarian or a healthy meat eater. There are very healthy meat recipes out there. And can you love animals while eating meat? YES you can

  51. Исидор Натансон Posted on September 16, 2019 at 5:11 am

    I'm about 90% vegan, I only eat meat when I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snakes. So I'm a vegan 90% of the time

  52. Corner Post Meats Posted on September 19, 2019 at 4:28 am

    Meat does not cause carbon emissions to increase, methane also came from 6 Million Buffalo that were native to our country at one time, grasslands sequester more carbon than any other biome in the world. These are the facts! Commercial meat production with confinement based livestock systems is the problem, not meat or eating meat. People, for these facts and more please look into regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agricultural practices use science, logic, and natural history to prove how nomadicly grazed livestock and meat from those animals can better our health ecosystems, and reverse climate change. PLEASE get the facts from ALL sides before you judge ranching and meat.

  53. Nata Kape Posted on September 20, 2019 at 9:15 am


  54. mokaboo Posted on September 20, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    It wasn’t long ago humans didn’t even eat much meat to begin with

  55. Mike Tree Posted on September 20, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    I really want to be vegan. I know that we have damaged our bodies and minds and will need years and years to recover even when we do go vegan. It's not a pretty picture. But I believe and hope we can do it and I hope I can get help to get there.

  56. Kix Koh Posted on September 21, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    I couldn’t stick to a vegetarian diet. But what I do is to eat more fish and less chicken and beef. I would take KFC or McDonald’s during the weekends. I actually feel a little healthier and my skin is brighter. You guys should try it

  57. Miss Vivienne Posted on September 22, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Go vegan ✊🏻

  58. Sarah Shearer Posted on September 23, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    I like this video because you aren't telling us not to eat meat!

  59. waowolf Posted on September 24, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    that why we indians don`t eat beef,out ancestors were visionary

  60. solchrystal Posted on September 26, 2019 at 2:54 am

    I've been a vegetarian for the last 14 years exactly for this. Everytime someone asks me if I did it dor the animals, I reply I did it for me, because I want to live in a world in which I can still breathe and don't get baked in the process.

  61. Ivy Vaughan Posted on September 26, 2019 at 3:43 am

    Who else has to watch this for Biology class?

  62. KD'sbeenhere Debnath Posted on September 26, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Thats why we worship cow in india

  63. jenniferlawrencefan8 Posted on September 27, 2019 at 12:53 am

    fish is actually not sustainable so idk, maybe revisit those data again. Mediterranean diets contain a lot of fish, look into where that fish comes from and what its doing to the oceans

  64. Isabelle Coppersmith Posted on September 27, 2019 at 2:37 am

    Trees need carbon dioxide, Co2, in order to thrive

  65. Ubbo Twijnstra Posted on September 27, 2019 at 8:43 am

    nobody ever speaks that the real problem is overpopulation. If we were half the people we could eat 2 kilos of meat a day and nothing would happen.

  66. gibby jones Posted on September 27, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    local pastured cows are good for the planet. CAFO is horrible for the planet (and the cows).
    there used to be 30 million buffalo (very big cows). are you gonna tell me they were bad for
    the planet ? really ? i eat a pound of cow per day. i think i need a little more.

  67. Samul Lumas Posted on September 28, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Won't we produce more methane gas by eating veg food than eating non veg food. (Since cattle produce more methane).

  68. Luke Sky Posted on September 28, 2019 at 9:34 am

    How many innocent oxygen producing and CO2 absorbing plants were murdered in the making of this video?

  69. Katja Sallinen Posted on September 28, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    If there is no CO2 , you have no vegetables to eat. CO2 helps plant to growth.

  70. boaaorbit Posted on September 29, 2019 at 12:01 am

    I'm a meat eater I might be going vegan and zero waste

    I want to start a ranch like my aunt and uncle did
    I'm excited for my future now I think I will be happy
    I will be a better person and make a change

  71. Kishan K Posted on September 29, 2019 at 2:29 am

    Greta thumberg must watch this… Can someone please show this to her?

  72. vipul verma Posted on September 29, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    hindu psychology is best guys follow sadhguru

  73. The Compassionate Hippie Posted on September 29, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Going vegan was the best thing I've done for my health, the planet, and animals. It was way easier than I thought! I only wish I'd done it sooner!!

  74. Science Geek Posted on September 30, 2019 at 3:27 am

    2 indians trying to convience me not to eat beef 😂😂😂🤣 ironic.

  75. Lúzia A Morta Posted on October 1, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    I'm not going to change my diet only for reducing minimally the climate change. It would be easier to just tell me to plant trees.

  76. Froot_Fly Posted on October 2, 2019 at 4:09 am

    I don't eat my meat, I beat it to stop climate change.

  77. MrOkayBar Posted on October 2, 2019 at 5:45 am

    Thanks for telling me what foods to avoid. I'm going to go on a diet with the sole intent of causing climate change.
    Population too high? Hurricanes'll clean that up real fast. Deforestation got you down? Most trees love tropical temperatures and a significant increase in carbon dioxide will mean significantly more air for plants to breathe. Want to move to Alaska but it's too cold? Make it a little warmer. Nobody likes city life in the heat, and so global warming will prevent or at least slow down urban sprawl. Developing nations and coastal cities produce most the toxic pollution in our air and oceans, and it just so happens that those two forms of society will be hindered the most by rising sea levels and increasing temperatures.

  78. MerRy Hearts Posted on October 2, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Thought there isn't any climate change
    Climate change is a hoax

  79. Mellon Kimm Posted on October 3, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Going vegetarian I love myself now the best I did in my entire life

  80. TK Tang Posted on October 3, 2019 at 8:47 am

    Never liked beef anyway

  81. Rave Posted on October 3, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    here's the pat on the head every vegan who comments their vegan wants

  82. IMBECILLIUS MAXIMUS Posted on October 4, 2019 at 9:34 am

    You can help fight global warming by eating babies

  83. Sagacious Eagle Posted on October 4, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    To reduce the severity from global toxic gas emissions for the generations to come, don't have kids if you don't need to, especially those living in a densely populated area.

  84. Leishmania Posted on October 4, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    I recently showed my mum a lot of facts about global warming, animal agriculture and how our diets have an impact in the environmet. There was no way to convince her to reduce our meat consumption. She believes all are lies. She said "God wouldn't create an animal that harm the planet". I never thought that religion could be a danger for the entire humanity…
    (Sorry if my english is not correct)

  85. Lauren Sharp Posted on October 5, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Now I can explain to my dad why I’m vegetarian and it’s not just a phase

  86. jztouch Posted on October 8, 2019 at 5:56 am

    I’ve felt so much lighter and looking better since I switched to a mostly plant-based diet several months ago. I still enjoy meat every once in awhile, mostly on the weekends. It’s nice to know it’s having a positive environmental impact too!

  87. Edie Lee Posted on October 10, 2019 at 2:32 am

    How many people know what the Mediterranean diet actually looks like? I wouldn't be surprised to find that a lot of people are just as unfamiliar with that as they are a vegan or plant-based diet. For personal health, I'd say the Mediterranean diet is probably the best and most studied but having tried at various points throughout my life to eat that way, I can also say it's not that easy. It requires cooking almost all your food yourself, as well as planning your oily fish intake carefully to meet Omega needs while making sure you're sourcing fish responsibly and with the right levels of Omegas. The people who eat a traditional Mediterranian diet, come from family and community units that are vastly different from the majority of the US for example. Small farming communities where women are responsible for cooking and meal planning, making sure that everyone is well-fed and keeping food waste to a minimum. It may seem like the less controversial suggestion but in practice, it feels a lot more like saying "don't worry too much, just have a go, we know you probably won't do it anyway". That's not really good enough when we've also been told that eating vegan is the thing we can do that has the single biggest impact on climate. It's also increasingly compatible with the lives of more people living in urban environments who work long hours. There is, of course, planning involved but based on my own experience as someone who lives in a major city, a lot less planning than the Mediterranean diet.

  88. Clodagh McPhelim Posted on October 10, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    Last night I had homemade veggie soup and fresh bread rolls! I don’t think I could ever go completely vegan or vegetarian but I try to have at least two meat free days a week

  89. Ravi Huner Posted on October 11, 2019 at 9:39 am

    great video keep up the good work

  90. Brick Animations Posted on October 11, 2019 at 10:37 am

    I’m sorry but meat taste to good to give up , even its effects on the planet will not change me

  91. A. J Posted on October 11, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Iv cut down on meat – and for some
    Reason I feel better on days that I do consume meat …….. so I won’t be giving it up

  92. Connecting People Online Posted on October 14, 2019 at 6:39 am

    Meat Mondays

  93. Rasta Man Stands Alone Posted on October 14, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    those little yellow buses have the same big engine of a normal bus. We have to put a bunch of them on the road greatly increasing carbon emissions and oil consumption. They need their own classrooms, special equipment that causes us to use more natural resources, they pollute more because they are incapable of comprehending why it is wrong. Everywhere they go has to have foam padding on the corners of everything, the manufacturering of that foam is a huge contributor to pollution and gaseous emissions much worse for the atmosphere than carbon monoxide or methane.

  94. Angel Kingsley Posted on October 16, 2019 at 10:58 am

    I realized I never ate many of the meats all my life except poultry, and I stop eating dairy and because they’re weird. So it wasn’t really that hard to cut my meat consumption in half and only eat meat as 1/4 of my meal when I eat meat.

  95. jayknight139 Posted on October 16, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    They should have mentioned insect protein.

  96. Lorne Beck Posted on October 16, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    0r we could just not produce grains or fed our beef grains…

  97. Hitler helped India Posted on October 17, 2019 at 4:48 am

    Americans are worst polluters on planet ….