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Posted by >>>>> on February 26, 2009


Lorna Garano





A meteorology professor and climate change expert explains the connection.


When we think of the culprits behind global warming, usually what comes to mind are gas-guzzling vehicles and inefficient household appliances, but climate change researcher Eugene Cordero, Ph.D., says there’s another under-recognized source: the standard American diet. “The latest research tells us that our diet is responsible for at least 20 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming,” he says. Cordero, a professor of meteorology at San Jose State University and atmospheric scientist, explains that our diet is implicated in many ways, from how our food is grown and processed to the amount of food waste that we produce. Along with chef Laura Stec, he’s written COOL CUISINE: TAKING THE BITE OUT OF GLOBAL WARMING (Gibbs Smith Publisher, September 2008, paperback) to explain how the standard American diet is linked to the most pressing environmental problem of our time and to offer a solution. “By making different choices about our food we can go from a way of eating that adds to global warming to one that reduces it,” he says.


Cordero is available for interview. Here’s just some of what he can discuss:



Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, imported food, livestock-raising practices, over-reliance on processed food, and food waste are some of the main diet-related sources of global warming. Cordero will explain how each contributes to the earth’s rising temperature. 



So, just how can you measure the impact of food choices on the environment? Cordero will explain a formula for evaluating the carbon footprint—or foodprint—of many common foods.  For example, two tablespoons of the average, conventionally produced peanut butter emits 118 grams of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to driving a hybrid vehicle about a half a mile. A single conventionally produced cheeseburger emits 10.7 pounds of carbon dioxide.



Food miles refer to the number of miles a food product has to travel to get to your plate. Food can be shipped via truck, ship, rail, or air. The most energy-efficient method is ship and the least is air. While locally grown foods that don’t have far to travel to get to your plate are generally more environmentally friendly, Cordero notes that the picture is more complex than may be recognized on first glance. “One complication regarding food miles is that if reducing emissions is your goal, then an understanding of how the food is produced can be as important as knowing how far it has had to travel,” he says. He points to studies that have shown that in some cases imported food that is grown in a more energy-efficient way contributes fewer carbon dioxide emissions that locally grown food that has been produced in energy-intensive ways.



How can you tell if a food is energy-efficient? “By looking at the amount of energy it takes to grow food and dividing it by the total amount of energy that the food offers in calories you can start to estimate the energy efficiency of a given food,” says Cordero. He adds that you also have to factor in the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the energy to grow food.  Taking all of this into account you can get a strong sense of which foods are the most energy-efficient. Cordero uses this method to determine that conventionally raised beef, which produces 1431 grams of carbon dioxide to produce, ranks as one of the least energy-efficient foods; and conventionally grown soybeans, which produces 7 grams of carbon dioxide to produce, are among the most energy-efficient foods.



Food choices have a clear impact on climate change, but how do they stack up alongside the most highly recognized contributor to global warming: automobiles? In his research, Cordero has compared various diets against various automobiles. What he found is that eating a high carbon dioxide-emitting diet that is heavy on animal protein produces 4.4 tons of carbon dioxide per year and driving a Ford F-series truck emits 5.2 tons of carbon dioxide per year. He also compared average and low carbon-dioxide-emitting diets to a Chevrolet sedan and a Prius.



If all of this seems gloomy, Cordero is quick to point out that by changing our diet we can go a long way in reducing global warming. And he’s not talking about a regimen of brown rice and soybeans. Rather, he says by eating locally grow, organic, fresh food our diet can become both more environmentally sound and tastier. COOL CUISINE: TAKING THE BITE OUT OF GLOBAL WARMING comes with mouth-watering recipes created by Chef Stec that utilize the cool cuisine principles. Her include Caramel Brie, Dark Chocolate Chili, Broiled Figs with Goat Cheese, Grass-Fed Beef Crostini, Dijon Green Beans with Candied Shallots, and Autumn Tempeh Salad. It also provides step-by-step suggestions for easily making cool cuisine a part of your life.


To schedule an interview or for a review copy of COOL CUISINE: TAKING THE BITE OUT OF GLOBAL WARMING contact: Lorna Garano, lornagarano@gmail.com, 510-922-9765



Eugene Cordero, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Meteorology at San José State University (SJSU) in California. His research interests are focused on understanding the processes responsible for long-term changes in climate through the use of observations and atmospheric models. At present, this work is supported by research grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA. Dr. Cordero is a coauthor on the WMO/UNEP 2006 Ozone Assessment report and is currently participating in projects related to evaluating the models used for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. In the Department of Meteorology, Dr. Cordero teaches various courses in climate change and is involved in projects working to improve methods of education that engage and ultimately stimulate social change. Visit him at: www.met.sjsu.edu/~cordero














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