More than 11,000 scientists have published a new declaration stating “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” Despite decades of acknowledgements that climate trends are alarming, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rapidly rise. The authors state that “we must change how we live.”
The authors propose six inter-related changes that governments, businesses, and individuals must make:
- Energy. We must replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables.
- Short-lived pollutants. We must promptly reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, which have a near-term warming impact, decrease air quality, and hasten feedback loops.
- Nature. We must protect and restore Earth’s ecosystems, which are critical for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
- Food. We must eat mostly plant-based foods while reducing the global consumption of animal products.
- Economy. We must curtail excessive extraction and growth, and instead live sustainably within our ecosystems.
- Population. We must stabilize or reduce global population, using policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates.
The authors point out that eating plant-based foods can not only significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also improve human health. That’s because diets rich in plant foods and low in animal foods have been consistently associated with longer, healthier lives.
The changes we must make to how we eat are inter-related with the other necessary changes. For example, growing plant foods for humans instead of for livestock will free up croplands, which can be used to support natural climate solutions, as outlined in the “nature” section. And farmed animals, in particular ruminants, emit methane—one of the short-lived pollutants that are so critical to halt.
Individual behaviour change is not enough. In an interview with CBC News, co-author Professor William Ripple stated that what we need is a “transformative change in society. And this involves economics, and the population, and what we eat, and how we function, and our politics.”
Governments must lead in helping us transition to a fundamentally different way of living. This includes creating policies that nudge Canadians towards diets rich in plant-based foods, such as legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Eating this way will not only make us healthier, it will be essential for sustaining life on Earth.