What would a trillion lifestyles look like

Vegetarian Diet: What If We Were All Vegetarians?

by Carolin Wahnbaeck
If nobody ate meat anymore, we and the planet would be much healthier. There are now astonishing figures for this: seven million fewer deaths per year by 2050, two thirds fewer greenhouse gases from food production. It would save about $ 1.5 quadrillion annually.

Are Vegetarians Better People? Well, at least there is a lot to be said for it: Vegetarians don't kill animals in order to eat them. You protect the environment. You eat healthier. And vegetarians save costs in many places because they are sick less often and their diet is less likely to fuel climate change. But is that all true? And what would our world look like if we were all vegetarians? A research team led by Marco Springmann from the University of Oxford answered exactly these questions with concrete figures in a study.

According to this, there could be seven million fewer deaths annually by 2050 with a worldwide vegetarian diet. The death rate would drop by about seven percent. Because if you don't eat meat but eat more fruit and vegetables, you are less likely to get fat and have heart problems.

Two thirds fewer greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere from food production - a fair amount! Because a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions go to the food account. Both effects together would also be of great economic value: Almost 1.5 quadrillion US dollars could be saved in health care and the costs of consequential damage to the climate. The saved health costs alone would be three percent of the expected global gross domestic product for 2050.

The Canadian knowledge portal AsapScience also asked itself about the purely vegetarian world - and answered it in a video.

A land area the size of Africa would become free

The authors of the film calculate the consequences for animal breeding: 20 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows and one billion sheep and pigs each would no longer be needed. This would free 33 million square kilometers of land on which the animals are currently kept. According to the authors, that would roughly correspond to the area of ‚Äč‚ÄčAfrica. The arable land for fodder cultivation is not even included here.

AsapScience also concludes that fewer farm animals and more free land will help in the fight against climate change. Many areas are so dry that they would turn into deserts without human intervention. And of course, more fruit and vegetable cultivation also consume more land. All in all, however, many former pasture areas could become forest again - and this absorbs climate-damaging CO2 very effectively.

Animal husbandry emits more greenhouse gases than global traffic

Above all, however, one of the greatest climate killers would be eliminated: methane, which cattle in particular use during digestion - a gas 25 times as harmful to the climate as CO2. Animal husbandry as a whole emits more greenhouse gases than all planes, trains and cars put together.

A meatless diet would also have a revolutionary effect on our water balance. According to AsapScience, we need seventy percent less water.

In short: Worldwide vegetarianism helps us and our planet. But so far, vegetarians are outnumbered everywhere: in most countries in the world it is between two and five percent of the population, even in India only a good 30 percent are vegetarian. And the trend is going in the wrong direction. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) paints a rather bleak picture: In 2050, a growing world population will eat less well than it does today. Because more wealthy people eat more meat and calories. Our food alone will "eat up" half of our permissible greenhouse gas emissions if the earth is not supposed to heat up by more than two degrees.

This development in particular shows that switching from one day to the next is completely unrealistic. But a slow transition is conceivable - and also solves another problem: According to the researchers in Springmann's team, around half a billion people earn their livelihood in meat production, and smallholders in developing countries in particular would be affected by a rapid changeover.

But we can take one step immediately: stop eating too much (especially meat) - and throw away food!

More on vegetarianism

Diet Eleven questions about vegetarianism

11 images
#Subjects