Hong Kong-UK study suggests cutting back on meat could help China breathe easier
Led by Prof. Amos Tai (middle), the global study suggests that switching to plant-based diets can significantly improve both human and environmental health.
A groundbreaking cross-disciplinary study led by CUHK and the University of Exeter (Exeter) has shown that higher meat consumption poses immediate health risks to everyone and not just to meat eaters. The research links rising meat consumption in China to dangerous air pollution that leads to tens of thousands of premature deaths each year. The research was recently published in Nature Food.
Conducted by the CUHK–Exeter Joint Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Resilience (ENSURE), the research provides undebatable evidence that switching to plant-based diets can significantly improve both human and environmental health. It estimates that if the average Chinese diet is replaced by the less meat-intensive diet recommended by the 2016 Chinese Dietary Guideline, ammonia emissions generated from animal waste and fertilisers for feed crops would decrease by about 20% and particulate matter by up to 6 micrograms per cubic metre, and 75,000 premature deaths related to air pollution in China would be avoided each year.
It is also worth noting that, while the adverse health effects of eating more meat are largely experienced by those who can afford it, the effects due to increased levels of air pollution are experienced by those living on lower incomes in major agricultural regions.
Led by Prof. Amos Tai of the Earth System Science Programme, this global study has been made possible with the support of ENSURE. Found in 2018, ENSURE aims to tackle emerging issues related to the changing environment and their effects on human health and wellbeing by developing large-scale collaborative projects that promote research excellence. It has made substantial progress in a number of collaborative projects and engaged over 40 researchers in the fields of earth system science, economics, environment and energy, geography, law, life sciences, mathematics, public health, and public policy, making significant impact on climate research to address sustainability challenges.
Please read the press release for more details.