Carbon diet

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A carbon diet refers to reducing the impact on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas production specifically, CO2 production. In today’s society, humans produce CO2 in every day activities such as driving, heating, deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. It has been found that carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions.[1] For years, governments and corporations have been attempting to balance out their emissions by participating in carbon-offsetting — the practice in which they invest in renewable energy to compensate for the global-warming pollution that they produce. Despite these efforts the results are still far off and we continue to see growth in CO2 concentration. Now, a growing number of individuals are trying to make a reduction in the amount of CO2 that is being produced by participating in low carbon dieting. This small adjustment in household CO2 production has the potential to reduce emissions much more quickly than other kinds of changes and it deserves explicit consideration as part of climate policy.[2] It can potentially help avoid “overshoot” of greenhouse gas concentration targets; provide a demonstration effect; reduce emissions at low cost; and buy time to develop new technologies, policies, and institutions to reach long-term greenhouse gas emission targets and to develop adaptation strategies.[2]

Participating in carbon dieting[edit]

Global carbon dioxide concentrations are beginning to rise on an annual basis. According to senior NASA scientist Roy Spencer, the reality of global warming should not be disputed and that we should instead turn our attention towards the growth per year. The past decade has produced nine of the eleven hottest years recorded this century.[3]

Kintigh Generating Station - Somerset, New York

The resulting buildup of carbon in areas such as the atmosphere, oceans, and soil contain a major threat to life. The threat of global warming has been an issue we have discovered due to high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but have not addressed as a global community. Not only is climate change an environmental issue, it is also a humanitarian and economical one as well because of the massive global impact it has.[4] We continue to live our lives as if we are not at the forefront of the problem as politicians tell us that global warming is a natural occurrence instead of a man-made one. As human beings, we are the focal point of the problem. It is our duty to be the ones who salvage the remaining resources we have left for future generations. An idea that has been put forth by multiple carbon resource management agencies recently is the utilization of cap-and-trade market systems.[4] With cap-and-trade systems, these agencies are able to trade permits for carbon sources so that the reservoirs are partitioned amongst various groups.[5] Implementing such a system will result in a decrease of carbon dioxide emissions over time as long as it is utilized effectively from all parties involved. However, as long as there is economic growth there is lesser chance of governing bodies providing sufficient amounts of funding in order to repair the damage that has been done by pollution. The budget that governments allocate to resource preservation initiatives are far below the amount that needs to be allocated in order to see real change. It is estimated that the value of emissions permits will be roughly $60 billion a year in 2012 and will continue to increase up to $113 billion 2025.[4]

There are many ways that individual households can participate in low carbon dieting. Reducing electricity expenditure by using energy efficient light bulbs and appliances can drastically shift the impact of CO2 emissions created by modern households. Common examples of alternate energy sources are hydro and wind systems as they are cleaner than natural gas and other alternate forms of energy production.[6] The development of hybrid cars have been a popular idea amongst car companies in order to provide customers with an option that is economically and environmentally appealing. A common behavior that severely impacts the environment is idling in a vehicle for long periods of time; leading to upwards of 17% of the gasoline being burned into the atmosphere.[7] Driving less and using alternate forms of transportation such as bicycles can also help reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Some other research conducted by the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan found some interesting facts on the impact of CO2 in the United States and how to reduce CO2 emissions in U.S households. It was found that washing clothes on ‘cold’ reduces CO2 emissions by 1.2-14.9 pounds per laundry load, depending on washing machine type, hot water temperature, and electricity source. It was also found that eating all locally grown food for one year could save the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1,000 miles, while eating a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles. A vegetarian diet greatly reduces an individual’s carbon footprint, but switching between different types of meat can have a major impact as well. For example, replacing all beef consumption with chicken for one year leads to an annual carbon footprint reduction of 882 pounds of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalency).[8]

Climate change mitigation policies tend to focus on the energy sector, while the livestock sector receives surprisingly little attention, despite the fact that it accounts for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions.[9] There has been some research conducted by using an integrated assessment model finding a global food transition to less meat, or even a complete switch to plant-based protein food to have a dramatic effect on land use. Up to 2,700 Mha of pasture and 100 Mha of cropland could be abandoned, resulting in a large carbon uptake from regrowing vegetation. Additionally, methane and nitrous oxide emission would be reduced substantially.[9] Some food choices supply energy more efficiently than others, for instance, 20 kilograms of feed must be provided to cattle in order to produce 1 kilogram of edible produce. If an organism is placed high on the trophic level the greater the loss of energy due to digestion and metabolism. A cow needs to eat a lot of food in order to maintain its body mass and muscle tissue, but the nutritional benefits of the food is diminished once it is digested and metabolized. A diet developed around plant based food items are seen as energy efficient as they utilize the Sun’s energy for photosynthesis. Based on an average 2,000 kcal diet, the high meat diet had 2.5 times as many greenhouse gas emissions than the average 2,000 kcal vegan diet.[10]

The production of CO2 continues to be a global issue in relation to climate change. Although the research has only been conducted for certain countries thus far, these strategies to reduce CO2 emissions per household can be effective globally if acted upon. The simplicity of carbon dieting in households and its potential for significant change needs to become an idea that is promoted around the world. If carbon dieting becomes a norm in households we could see a major change in greenhouse gas emissions and therefore a reduction in global warming.

Key components of a carbon diet[edit]

A carbon diet is similar to a food diet. It starts with assessing weight (measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide) and then determining where the ideal weight should be. The following outlines the steps of a carbon diet:

  • Calculate a carbon footprint to understand the amount of carbon dioxide emissions
  • Measure the carbon footprint against peers (e.g., similar company size or for individuals, a national average)
  • Determine the ideal carbon footprint
  • Identify the source of the most significant carbon dioxide emissions [11]
  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by starting with the most significant sources first

See also[edit]


  1. ^ C. (2017, February 14). Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from
  2. ^ a b Dietz, T.; Gardner, G. T.; Gilligan, J.; Stern, P. C.; Vandenbergh, M. P. (2009). "Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (44): 18452. Bibcode:2009PNAS..10618452D. doi:10.1073/pnas.0908738106. PMC 2767367Freely accessible. 
  3. ^ Spencer, R. (2000). New Study to Help Resolve Global Warming Controversy. (2000). Industrial Environment, 11(3), 1.
  4. ^ a b c Kurtzman, Joel (1 January 2009). "The Low-Carbon Diet: How the Market Can Curb Climate Change". 88 (5): 114–122. JSTOR 20699648. 
  5. ^ Graham, D. M. (1998). Global warming: The controversy. Sea Technology, 39(2), 7. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Zhang, Ning; Wang, Bing; Chen, Zhongfei (2016). "Carbon emissions reductions and technology gaps in the world's factory, 1990–2012". Energy Policy. 91: 28. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2015.12.042. 
  7. ^ Withgott, Jay et al. (2017) Environment: The Science Behind The Stories. 3rd ed., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Pearson Canada Inc.
  8. ^ U. (n.d.). Carbon Footprint Factsheet. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from
  9. ^ a b Stehfest, Elke; Bouwman, Lex; Van Vuuren, Detlef P.; Den Elzen, Michel G. J.; Eickhout, Bas; Kabat, Pavel (2009). "Climate benefits of changing diet". Climatic Change. 95: 83. doi:10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6. 
  10. ^ Scarborough, Peter; Appleby, Paul N.; Mizdrak, Anja; Briggs, Adam D. M.; Travis, Ruth C.; Bradbury, Kathryn E.; Key, Timothy J. (2014). "Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK". Climatic Change. 125 (2): 179. doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1. PMC 4372775Freely accessible. PMID 25834298. 
  11. ^ Data and studies on CO2 emissions from common goods and services are at

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