If the entire United States went vegan, it could be great for the environment. But it’s a lot more complicated than advocates for an all-vegan country might hope, a new study found.
Agriculture and forestry alone make up a quarter of the United States’ total greenhouse emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — and animals produce roughly half of those agricultural emissions, Science Magazine reported.
That means animal agriculture is a perennial target for those hoping to cut emissions and tackle global warming. So what would happen if all 320 million Americans went vegan, entirely eliminating animals from our diets — and from our farming and ranching practices?
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that such a radical diet change would slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 28 percent. But the study — authored by Robin White, of the Virginia Tech department of animal and poultry science, and Mary Beth Hall, a U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher in Madison, Wisc. — also found that an animal-free diet would harm Americans’ nutrition.
And you might be wondering about the math, too: If animals produce 49 percent of U.S. agriculture’s greenhouse emissions, shouldn’t eliminating animals cut emissions by the same amount — that is, 49 percent?
For better or worse, it’s not that simple, scientists told Science Magazine. Eliminating animals altogether would leave behind tons of corn stalks, potato waste and other plant byproducts that right now end…