The International Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body for assessing scientific research related to climate change, released a Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land. This summary outlines ways current land management practices contribute to global climate change and explores potential paths toward better land management that can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and improve land sustainability.

"Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change," Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, said in a press release. (In the summary of the report, the IPCC acknowledges that factors like financial barriers and cultural habits may influence the adoption of such diets.)

But how much difference can such choices really make? A wealth of research supports the idea that adopting a low- or no-meat diet is a significant way to lower an individual's greenhouse gas footprint. The IPCC report cites data showing that livestock production accounts for the greatest portion of ice-free land on Earth's surface, and contributed to over half of anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions in 2014.

While there is limited data available that can confidently measure the expansion of the meatless population, societal indicators like the double-digit sales growth of plant-based food options between 2014 and 2017 reflect a growing consumer demand for vegan and vegetarian foods. Still, an analysis by Animal Charity Evaluators found that between 2 and 6 percent of Americans self-identify as vegetarians, and only 1 percent of Americans self-identify as vegetarians and report never consuming meat.

The fundamental problem with climate change is that it's a collective problem, but it rises out of lots of individual decisions. Society's challenge is to figure out how we can influence those decisions in a way that generates a more positive collective outcome

says Keith Wiebe, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Read the full article about how dietary changes can make an impact by Kelley Czajka at Pacific Standard.