Did you know that Worldwatch Institute estimates that livestock production accounts for 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually? This makes livestock production the leading cause of climate change, yet all signs point to the fact that based on global diet trends, these numbers are only poised to grow. So, as a global community we’re in a bit of a pickle (to say the very least).
A new report from Nature Climate Change reveals that our current trends in food production alone will cause us to reach, and possibly exceed global targets for greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions by 2050. Meaning all the other sources of ghg’s, including burning fossil fuels and natural gas, will push us far over 2050 targets. Yikes.
As the report explains, more and more cultures across the world are adopting a “Western” diet that emphasizes meat consumption.
However, the sad reality is the earth is not growing, and we’re running out of arable land fast in trying to meet this demand. The only solution to allow us to produce more livestock to satisfy a meat-intensive diet is to cut down old growth forests to make space.
And deforestation does not come without consequence. As rich rainforests are chopped down, all the carbon they have absorbed over their lifetime is released back into the atmosphere. So as these forests disappear to make room for livestock: carbon dioxide levels go up, biodiversity goes down, and the introduction of methane producing cattle, chickens, and pigs means more greenhouse gases added to our already stressed atmosphere.
Nature Climate Change predicts that by 2050, if we continue on a business as usual course with agriculture, cropland to grow feed will have to increase by 42 percent.
Additionally, fertilizer use will rise by 45 percent, and an additional one-tenth of the world’s pristine rainforest will be sacrificed at this cost.
The grand total of all these additions figures to an increase of greenhouse gases credited to food production by 80 PERCENT!
And even if these projections come to fruition, there still won’t be enough food available to feed the 9.6 billion people who will inhabit Earth in 2050. Agriculture centered around livestock production is incredibly inefficient. For every 100 calories of grain grown to feed livestock, only 3 calories of beef are produced.
Wow. So, this huge problem must involve an incredibly complex solution…right? Actually, the answer is no. While the study details these rather daunting figures, this is by no means a death sentence. In fact, the author of this report asserts that by simply eating a more balanced diet that eliminates an excess of meat, we can effectively drive down greenhouse gas emissions before they come to a cataclysmic head.
By simply phasing out meat derived from animals, and incorporating more plant-based meat options into your diet you can help to lower the global demand for increased livestock production. While the best solution is to eliminate all meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet, even making a gradual change that slowly removes meat from the center of your daily meals can make a huge difference.
If we consider the environmental impact that our food choices make everyday, we can shape a more efficient food system that is able to sustain life well beyond the next 35 years.