The growing world population will have to reduce its meat and dairy consumption to keep global warming from rising above the “safe” 2 degrees Celsius already agreed to by governments, a study from the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden has concluded. The study has been published in the journal Climatic Change.
Although emissions from burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and transport account for the greatest share of greenhouse gas emissions, the study suggests that reducing these will not guarantee keeping below the 2 degree temperature rise. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are very significant and are rising as global meat and dairy consumption rises. Nitrous oxide from agricultural land and methane from livestock are the main concerns.
As the population of the planet grows, diets high in meat and dairy are expected to become more common. Agricultural industries are researching better methods of crop production, and ‘smarter animal feeds” to reduce emissions, but scientists from the study say, “reduced ruminant meat and dairy consumption will be indispensable for reaching the 2 °C target with a high probability, unless unprecedented advances in technology take place.”
The researchers say that reducing meat and dairy consumption will be key to bringing agricultural climate pollution down to safe levels, and the world should already be working on how to make our food production more climate friendly.
Image credit: Fredrik Hedenus