“It’s very clear that whites are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of their food choices.”
White people are contributing to climate change through their eating habits according to a new study released Wednesday by the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
According to the study’s authors, when it comes to climate change, white populations are guiltier of causing more harm than their black and latino counterparts.
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Researchers tracked multiple databases to identify foods that do the most damage to the environment, whether through using more water resources, land and energy, or through greenhouse gas production.
Potatoes, beef, apples, and milk were listed as examples of the worst environmental offenders.
“The food pipeline – which includes its production, distribution and waste – contributes significantly to climate change through the production of greenhouse gases and requires significant amounts of water and land, which also has environmental effects,” said Joe Bozeman, a student who helped author the paper.
Using EPA data on more than 500 foods, researchers said that whites produced an average of 680 kilograms of CO2 each year. In comparison, latino populations produced 640 kilograms and blacks produced only 600.
When it comes to water usage, whites were also the biggest culprits, researchers found. While whites used 328,000 liters of water on average per year, latinos used 307,000 while blacks used 311,800.
The only area researchers studied where whites didn’t top the list was in land usage per capita. White populations only required 1,550 square meters per year, while black and latino populations both required more than 1,700.
According to Bozeman, the small differences in usage add up.
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“While the difference may not be enormous, these numbers are per individual, and when you add up all those individuals, it’s very clear that whites are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of their food choices,” Bozeman said.
The timing of the study is particularly interesting given the ascendance of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. The freshman congresswoman has been outspoken about racial issues and climate change.
Earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez made the case that her Green New Deal would address wealth inequalities caused by systemic racism.
Speaking at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, the freshman Democrat sought to portray her sweeping proposal for environmental and social justice as more race-conscious than the original New Deal.
“When people are not educated about the tools and the systems that created racial wealth gap disparities or other wealth gap disparities … you create this gaping maw in which someone can tell a racist story that kind of tells people why a certain community is poor,” she said.
On the climate change side, the Bronx millennial has been the most vocal proponent of the ambitious and controversial Green New Deal.
In arguing for the urgency of enacting the proposal, she has claimed that climate change is one of the “biggest existential threats to our way of life – not just as a nation but as a world.”
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