Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat and dairy consumption

Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat and dairy consumption
The line shows how much total emissions must be reduced to meet the two degree target with large certainty. The bars show future agricultural emissions at current trends (blue), if agricultural productivity increases and technical measures are implemented (orange), and if technical measures are combined with a 75 percent reduction in meat and dairy consumption (green). The distance between the bars and the line shows the total possible magnitude of emissions from energy, transport, industry and deforestation. Credit: Fredrik Hedenus

Greenhouse gas emissions from food production may threaten the UN climate target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to research at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

On Monday 31 March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presents their report on the impacts of .

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy and transportation sectors currently account for the largest share of climate pollution. However, a study from Chalmers now shows that eliminating these emissions would not guarantee staying below the UN limit. Emissions from agriculture threaten to keep increasing as global meat and dairy consumption increases. If agricultural emissions are not addressed, nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock may double by 2070. This alone would make meeting the climate target essentially impossible.

"We have shown that reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural climate pollution down to safe levels," says Fredrik Hedenus, one of the study authors. "Broad dietary change can take a long time. We should already be thinking about how we can make our food more climate friendly."

By 2070, there will be many more of us on this planet. Diets high in meat, milk, cheese, and other food associated with high emissions are expected to become more common. Because agricultural emissions are difficult and expensive to reduce via changes in production methods or technology, these growing numbers of people, eating more meat and dairy, entail increasing amounts of climate pollution from the food sector.

"These emissions can be reduced with efficiency gains in meat and dairy production, as well as with the aid of new technology," says co-author Stefan Wirsenius. "But the potential reductions from these measures are fairly limited and will probably not suffice to keep us within the climate limit, if meat and continue to grow."

Beef and lamb account for the largest agricultural emissions, relative to the energy they provide. By 2050, estimates indicate that beef and lamb will account for half of all agricultural , while only contributing 3 percent of human calorie intake. Cheese and other dairy products will account for about one quarter of total agricultural climate pollution.

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More information: "The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets," by Fredrik Hedenus, Stefan Wirsenius, and Daniel Johansson, Climatic Change, March 31, 2014.
Journal information: Climatic Change

Citation: Meeting climate targets may require reducing meat and dairy consumption (2014, March 30) retrieved 20 August 2019 from
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Mar 30, 2014
It is not enough to redistribute wealth and power. Good, but there will still be inequality.

We need to begin now to eliminate meat from our diets since there are people who cannot afford much meat.

True equality will not appear just because everyone is equally poor. We must be equally miserable.

AGW will rise to the challenge.

Mar 30, 2014
LOL. So now they want to take my bacon too? They'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!

Mar 30, 2014
When will it be recognized that consumption is growing due to population-explosion demands? Yes, we have a choice of diet, but we also have a choice in reproduction.

Mar 30, 2014
When will it be recognized that consumption is growing due to population-explosion demands? Yes, we have a choice of diet, but we also have a choice in reproduction.

You hit on an issue which the AGW crown avoids like the plague. The stresses we are placing on the planet and on us are largely due to unconstrained population growth.

If we actually wanted to do one thing to reduce CO2 production, reduction in population growth would be the first thing we would do.

Of course, it is not now and never was about AGW, so population growth is not mentioned by Chicken Little.

Mar 30, 2014
I have a novel idea. How about instead of degrading our quality of life, we just start making less people. Eventually, the surplus of elderly will balance itself out naturally. The alternatives are much more harsh than that.

Mar 30, 2014
You hit on an issue which the AGW crown avoids like the plague.

AGWites are very quick to promote population controls.
No wonder they act just like the Eugenicists.

The proven way to reduce population growth is with economic growth. But this can't be allowed by the socialist AGWites.

Mar 30, 2014
The analysis focuses on man made CO2 only without consIdering natural sources and far more damaging methane, both natural from oil wells, melting permafrost, volcanos, and cattle outgassing. Technocratic fixes are clearly insufficient and reducing meat and dairy production by going vegetarian are unrealistic in light of enormous harmful impact on global food supplies and economic losses to agro businesses. We just have to live with global or regional warming cycles in part beyond human control.

Mar 31, 2014
According to the UN's own estimates, world population will range somewhere between 6 billion and 16 billion by the end of the century (https://en.wikipe...00.svg).

In other words, there could be twice as many people or there could be one-seventh fewer people, than at present. The article writer on the other hand states as fact that "there will be many more people on this planet." Given that bias, the rest of the article is clearly slanted.

What we do know is that population growth has fallen to almost nil in the industrialized world.
Most likely, it will fall elsewhere as well, as more women gain access to birth control. (Therefore, we can state this equality: Less religion = more meat.)

There are good reasons to eschew meat (no pun intended), just as there are good reasons to reduce "fossil fuel" consumption. The bogus AGW scare story however is not one of them.

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