Western diets may exacerbate global warming

Washington: A new study has suggested that a meat-heavy Western diet may push the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to its limit by 2050.

The study showed that increased deforestation, fertilizer use and livestock methane emissions were likely to cause GHG from food production to increase by almost 80% and this will put emissions from food production alone roughly equal to the target greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 for the entire global economy.

Lead researcher Bojana Bajzelj from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, asserted that the average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat was less than 3%, and as they ate more meat, more arable cultivation was turned over to producing feedstock for animals that provide meat for humans and the losses at each stage are large, and as humans globally ate more and more meat, conversion from plants to food became less and less efficient, driving agricultural expansion and land cover conversion, and releasing more greenhouse gases.

The study’s authors stated that halving the amount of food waste and managing demand for particularly environmentally-damaging food products by changing global diets should be key aims that, if achieved, might lesson the impact of greenhouse gas on climate change.

Co-author Prof Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen said that they would have to completely de-carbonise the energy and industry sectors to stay within emissions budgets that avoid dangerous climate change unless they made some serious changes in food consumption trends, which was practically impossible so, as well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, they need to re-think what they ate.

The study is published in journal Nature Climate Change.


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