A draft set of new dietary guidelines released yesterday by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) was backed by a 571-page scientific report from the 2015 Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee (DGAC) that was assembled by the Obama administration.
The Washington Post reports that, for the first time ever, the Dietary Guidelines took into consideration the environmental impacts of food production in recommending that Americans decrease their consumption of red meat and increase their intake of plant-based food.
This is from the DGAC’s Executive Summary (emphasis added):
The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet. This pattern of eating can be achieved through a variety of dietary patterns, including the Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern, and the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern. All of these dietary patterns are aligned with lower environmental impacts and provide options that can be adopted by the U.S. population. Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns. This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns. Of note is that no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.
Among the environmental considerations is greenhouse gas emissions, which are significant for one reason only: climate change (despite the DGAC report explicitly stating it did not take into account climate change).
This is another example of the breadth of Obama’s Climate Action Plan—although one not announced as such … yet.
In anticipation, I wanted to see just what kind of a climate change impact these dietary guidelines could potentially avert.
My calculations are admittedly rough, but you’ll see once you get to the end, that it hardly makes much of difference even if I am off my an order of magnitude.