Save the Planet: Eat Bacon

Anthony Watts of WattsUpWithThat tips us to an important new study on the greenhouse gas emissions impact of switching to a vegetarian-leaning diet. The study appears in the latest issue of Environmental Systems and Decisions, one of the many journals that thinks “systems analysis” is the key to understanding and saving the world. (Where is Robert McNamara when you really need him?)

The complete study is  unfortunately behind a paywall, though you can take in the abstract at the link above. Here’s how Science Daily summarizes it:

Vegetarian and ‘healthy’ diets are more harmful to the environment

Contrary to recent headlines — and a talk by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference — eating a vegetarian diet could contribute to climate change.

In fact, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie. . .

“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy. “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

. . . eating the recommended “healthier” foods — a mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood — increased the environmental impact in all three categories: Energy use went up by 38 percent, water use by 10 percent and GHG emissions by 6 percent.

I knew it! Waiter—extra bacon on my cheeseburger please! I’m going to save the planet.