By Sandy K. Johnson

“You are what you eat,” the old saying goes. Benjamin Houlton argues that you should add “… and so is the planet.”

A dietary shift toward low-carbon food is among the strategies for adapting agriculture – and people -- to climate change, according to Houlton, who is the director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Davis.

Nobody’s asking you to give you up your bacon cheeseburger, but adding a little more plant-based food or fish to your diet could have long-term impacts on the environment.

“It doesn’t mean going vegetarian,” he said. “And yet there is the fact that in the U.S. we consume 50-75% more protein than recommended by doctors.”

Another avenue is technological innovation to improve agricultural efficiency. The better use of fertilizer, for example, could help offset greenhouse gas emissions.

“Agriculture is in the best position to absorb more carbon emissions than it is emitting,” he said.

Why it matters for agriculture and the food supply? One example: A 2-degree Celsius increase in temperatures would translate to a projected 17.8% decline in corn production in the U.S.; a 4-degree increase would halve the corn harvest.