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Behavioral science fashions may help determine the greenest dietary modifications | Vanderbilt Information

Spreading the gospel of veggie-only diets will not be the best method to assist scale back total, food-related greenhouse fuel emissions, in response to a brand new mannequin primarily based on behavioral science.

In new commentary revealed Aug. 9 in Nature Sustainability, Jonathan Gilligan, affiliate professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, examines the significance of together with reasonable examples of human conduct in laptop fashions that measure human impacts on local weather change.

Gilligan’s commentary focuses on a brand new report by Sibel Eker and her colleagues on the Worldwide Institute for Utilized Programs Evaluation in Austria, which additionally seems within the Aug. 9 version of Nature Sustainability, on a brand new mannequin that makes use of behavioral science to check the influence of weight loss program on local weather change. Eker’s paper focuses on adoption of vegetarian or vegan diets, however surprisingly finds that decreasing the quantity and sort of meat that meat-eaters eat has a better influence on the local weather than rising the variety of folks with strict vegetarians or vegans.

In his article, “Modeling Eating regimen Decisions,” Gilligan notes that, whereas a discount in purple meat consumption is a well known catalyst for decreasing greenhouse emissions, researchers and coverage makers don’t at all times know one of the best ways to encourage Individuals to really eat much less purple meat.

Headshot of Jonathan Gilligan
Jonathan Gilligan (Vanderbilt College)

Gilligan’s commentary attracts on his earlier analysis with Michael Vandenbergh, the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Regulation at Vanderbilt. Working with a staff of social and behavioral scientists, the duo pioneered an method to analyzing the environmental influence of environmental insurance policies by accounting for the truth that some insurance policies are simpler than others at persuading folks to vary their conduct.

Built-in evaluation fashions (IAMs) are extensively used to evaluate local weather insurance policies, and Gilligan argues that incorporating behavioral science into these fashions is crucial for correctly inspecting and evaluating coverage situations as a way to decide which approaches are the greenest.

Eker’s mannequin does this by connecting weight loss program, land-use and greenhouse fuel emissions, and utilizing the psychological theories of Deliberate Habits and Safety Motivation to explain the twin issues folks carry to the selection whether or not to eat meat: threat to private well being, and threat to the local weather. As Gilligan mentions in his commentary, this mannequin’s method is an effective way to not solely gauge which dietary modifications are the greenest, but additionally perceive what drives customers to undertake these modifications.

Eker and her colleagues used their mannequin to point out that if meat eaters undertake a flexitarian weight loss program, by which they nonetheless eat meat however in decreased portions, and just a few folks turn into strict vegetarian, the hurt to the setting shall be lower than a situation by which half the inhabitants turns into vegetarian however the remaining meat eaters proceed to eat giant quantities of purple meat.  In different phrases, it makes a better distinction for big numbers of meat eaters to scale back their purple meat consumption than for a a lot smaller quantity to turn into strict vegetarians.

Gilligan factors out that that is excellent news for policymakers as a result of dietary traits in the US have already been shifting towards much less purple meat and extra rooster. Further analysis utilizing fashions that incorporate behavioral science will assist determine higher methods to scale back the contribution of American diets to local weather change whereas additionally bettering public well being.


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