Recent reports by a major medical group in Australia warn that climate change poses a major threat to human physical and psychological health. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, representing over 15,000 specialists, has published detailed statements on Climate Change and Health and the Health Benefits of Mitigating Climate Change.
The statements say that climate change is a danger to human health, but that it can be mitigated by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They list decreasing the emissions from agriculture as one of the major mitigation strategies most relevant to Australia and New Zealand. They highlight that plant-based food production releases fewer emissions than animal products.
The statements list land clearing and livestock production as having significant impacts on both climate change and human health. Note that the great majority of land clearing in Australia is for animal agriculture.
Other points the doctors' organisation makes include:
- "The widespread adoption of plant-based diets - diets rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in meat, eggs and dairy products - would reduce emissions from deforestation and livestock. Plant-based diets can also reduce the incidence of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes."
- "Deforestation and land clearing are major issues in Australia and New Zealand, where some of the best carbon dioxide sequestering forests in the world are still being cleared. Maintaining forests and reducing land clearing is also beneficial for biodiversity, air and water quality, recreational activities, and mental health."
- "Industrial urbanisation is replacing traditional plant-based diets with diets high in refined sugars, fats, oils and meats.
- Excessive "red meat consumption [...] is associated with increased rates of colon cancer, obesity, and heart disease."
- "Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and food production may be reduced by moving towards plant-based diets".
- "Plant-based food production is less energy-intensive and releases fewer emissions compared to diets with high amounts of meat, particularly processed meats."
- "Plant-based diets are also associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Researchers have estimated that transitioning to a diet which is more plant-based (but still in accordance with standard guidelines) could reduce global mortality by 6-10 per cent and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70 per cent by 2050."
- The College of Physicians plans to "raise awareness of the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet" and provide "the community with advice on healthy plant-based diets."
- "The RACP calls upon Australian and New Zealand governments to facilitate low carbon systems of food production."
We applaud this respected medical organisation in making a clear statement that a plant based diet is better for the health of humans, both directly as food and indirectly as a way to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on humans.