According to a new poll of 1,404 adults conducted by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland in July 2023, 74% of Americans do not think eating meat would have any impact on climate change, and 77% do not believe consuming dairy would either. However, science has shown that we can avoid 100 gigatons of greenhouse emissions if three-quarters of people adopt plant-rich diets by 2050, and that veganism can reduce emissions by 75% compared to meat-heavy diets.
In contrast, the poll shows that around 60% believed recycling is the key action to stop climate change, while one estimate says that only 35% of all waste is actually recycled, with that number dropping to just 9% for plastic waste. Other measures most Americans think are better than changes in diet as installing solar panels, driving electric cars, flying less, and living in smaller houses.
This is in line with a Newsweek poll that showed 40% of Americans do not believe eating less red meat would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Part of this problem may be the media. A study by Faunalytics and Sentient Media found that 93% of all climate media coverage doesn’t mention animal agriculture, despite meat and dairy production accounting for about 11-19% of global emissions.
The poll also found that the number of Americans who feel they can personally make a difference when it comes to climate change has reduced, from 66% in 2019 to 52% this year.
This lack of understanding of the reality of the impact of animal agriculture could also be seen in Conservative politicians, as in the most recent primary debate, not a single one of the eight Republican presidential candidates present said yes to a question asking whether they believed humans contributed to the climate crisis, and one called climate change a hoax.