Eating less beef and reducing food waste can reduce greenhouse gases responsible for climate change by as much as 50- 90 percent by 2030, the equivalent of removing all cars in the world, while maintaining food security a new study says.
The news resonate well particularly with Sub-Saharan African countries where science estimates the average production losses by 2050 for African maize at 22 per cent, sorghum 17 per cent, millet 17 per cent, groundnut 18 per cent and cassava 8 per cent as a result of rise in temperatures.
The study, dubbed Strategies for mitigating climate change in agriculture, and released by Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates highlights twelve key strategies needed to halve the vagaries of weather while maintaining food security and building resilience. Key among them include reducing global beef consumption, reducing food waste and better farm nutrient management and production.
The report, which reviewed and synthesized a wide range of literature on agriculture and climate change, including some unpublished data, stresses the fundamental yet under-emphasized role that consumption plays in fueling food-related emissions. It estimates that changing diets and reducing food waste in key countries could cut over three gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
“By reducing the climate impact of the food we eat, we can improve our health and the health of the planet,” said Dr. Charlotte Streck of Climate Focus, co-author of the study. “By making the way we produce food more efficient, farmers can reap the benefits of increased production while decreasing the environmental impacts of farming. The energy and transport sectors have seen a significant growth in innovation needed to ensure the long term sustainability of the sectors. It is time that agriculture followed.”
The study also shows that making the global food system more efficient and eating healthier food would allow the world feed the growing population, expected to surpass 9 billion people by 2050, and limit the sector’s significant climate footprint.
“There are so many ways in which policymakers can help farmers boost productivity while mitigating climate change,” Streck said. “We need to dispel the notion, once and for all, that productivity and sustainability can’t work hand in hand.”
The report finds that 70 percent of direct greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from livestock, in particular from cows, sheep and other grazing animals. Much of these emissions could be eliminated if beef demand were reduced, particularly in two countries: the U.S., currently the world’s biggest consumers of red meat, and China, where demand for beef is set to rise rapidly.
The report cites the global public relations campaign designed to curb shark fin soup consumption in China, underpinned by the national government’s prohibition on serving the dish at official banquets. These efforts cut shark fin imports by an enormous 50-70 percent, helping to conserve dwindling shark populations around the world. The report suggests that a similar effort could persuade diners to eat less meat altogether or, at least, to appreciate healthier, less water-intensive and less climate-intensive meats like pork or chicken.