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Eating less meat essential to curb climate change, says report

 

Meat Consumption

Dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed 2C, says report. Photograph: Brent Lewin/Getty Images

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Eating less meat essential to curb climate change, says report” was written by Damian Carrington, for The Guardian on Wednesday 3rd December 2014 00.02 UTC

 

Curbing the world’s huge and increasing appetite for meat is essential to avoid devastating climate change, according to a new report. But governments and green campaigners are doing nothing to tackle the issue due to fears of a consumer backlash, warns the analysis from the thinktank Chatham House.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined, but a worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming.

“Preventing catastrophic warming is dependent on tackling meat and dairy consumption, but the world is doing very little,” said Rob Bailey, the report’s lead author. “A lot is being done on deforestation and transport, but there is a huge gap on the livestock sector. There is a deep reluctance to engage because of the received wisdom that it is not the place of governments or civil society to intrude into people’s lives and tell them what to eat.”

The recent landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that dietary change can “substantially lower” emissions but there is no UN plan to achieve that.

Past calls to cut meat eating by high-profile figures, from the chief of the UN’s climate science panel to the economist Lord Stern, have been both rare and controversial. Other scientists have proposed a meat tax to curb consumption, but the report concludes that keeping meat eating to levels recommended by health authorities would not only lower emissions but also reduce heart disease and cancer. “The research does not show everyone has to be a vegetarian to limit warming to 2C, the stated objective of the world’s governments,” said Bailey.

The report builds on recent scientific studies which show that soaring meat demand in China and elsewhere could tip the world’s climate into chaos. Emissions from livestock, largely from burping cows and sheep and their manure, currently make up almost 15% of global emissions. Beef and dairy alone make up 65% of all livestock emissions.

Appetite for meat is rocketing as the global population swells and becomes more able to afford meat. Meat consumption is on track to rise 75% by 2050, and dairy 65%, compared with 40% for cereals. By 2020, China alone is expected to be eating 20m tonnes more of meat and dairy a year.

Two recent peer-reviewed studies calculated that, without severe cuts in this trend, agricultural emissions will take up the entire world’s carbon budget by 2050, with livestock a major contributor. This would mean every other sector, including energy, industry and transport, would have to be zero carbon, which is described as “impossible”. The Chatham House report concludes: “Dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed 2C.”

 

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