Trump’s Latest Climate Assault Targets our Forks
The Trump administration’s latest effort to undo the progress America is making in combating climate change is now targeted at our diets. On Monday, Trump’s Agriculture Department announced an end to a 14-year ban on American beef exports to China.
Beef is the largest contributor to climate change in the American diet—and increasingly globally—responsible for pollution equivalent to that from millions of cars ever year in the U.S.
But beef has also been a welcome good news story in the fight against climate change in recent years. That’s because, whether we realized it or not, Americans have been fighting climate change with our forks. An NRDC report released earlier this year showed that changes in Americans’ diets over the past decade have prevented an enormous amount of climate pollution—equal to tailpipe emissions from 57 million cars in one year. The biggest driver behind this positive change is a 19 percent drop in our beef consumption.
Now is not the time to export on our bad habits overseas—especially when China is also moving forward.
In 2014, China issued a National Program for Food and Nutrition (2014-2020), w), in which the per capita meat consumption would be 29kg by 2020, roughly 50% of current level according to the 2016 Global Food Policy Report by the International Food Policy Research Institute. We should be supportive of reaching that goal, and continuing to move in that direction ourselves instead of increasing our production and exports.
Increasing beef production at home by opening up a huge export partner means more runoff pollution threatening drinking water sources, more overuse of antibiotics fueling the spread of drug-resistant infections, and more greenhouse gas emissions fueling the extreme weather we’re increasing seeing around the country, from drought and wildfires to hurricanes and flooding.
Of course, eating more beef also comes with health concerns. Doctors warn that increased beef consumption increases risks of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, etc.
In short: exporting beef to China is bad for the American public and bad for the battle against climate change.
By continuing down the positive path we’re already on and eating more plant-based food and less animal products, we can all continue this forward progress in kitchens across the country and around the world. That’s better for our health and the health of the planet.