Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Reduction in meat-eating ‘essential’: report

‘PRETTY SHOCKING’:The researchers found that a global shift to a ‘flexitarian’ diet would be needed to keep climate change even under 2°C, let alone 1.5°C

The Guardian

Huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system’s impact on the environment.

In Western nations, beef consumption needs to fall by 90 percent and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses.

The research also finds that enormous changes to farming are needed to avoid destroying the planet’s ability to feed the 10 billion people expected to be on the planet in a few decades.

Food production already causes great damage to the environment via greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution, but without action, its impact will get far worse as the world population rises by 2.3 billion people by 2050 and global income triples, enabling more people to eat meat-rich Western diets.

This trajectory would smash critical environmental limits beyond which humanity would struggle to live, the new research indicates.

“It is pretty shocking,” said Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, who led the research team. “We are really risking the sustainability of the whole system. If we are interested in people being able to farm and eat, then we better not do that.”

“Feeding a world population of 10 billion is possible, but only if we change the way we eat and the way we produce food,” said Johan Rockstroem of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was part of the research team. “Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today.”

The new study followed the publication of a landmark UN report on Monday in which the world’s leading scientists warned there are just a dozen years in which to keep global warming under 1.5°C, beyond which even half a degree would significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods and extreme heat.

The report said eating less meat and dairy was important, but said current trends were in the opposite direction.

The new research, published in the journal Nature, is the most thorough to date and combined data from every nation to assess the impact of food production on the global environment.

It then looked at what could be done to stop the looming food crisis.

“There is no magic bullet, but dietary and technological change [on farms] are the two essential things, and hopefully they can be complemented by reduction in food loss and waste,” Springmann said.

About a third of food produced today never reaches the table.

The researchers found a global shift to a “flexitarian” diet was needed to keep climate change even under 2°C, let alone 1.5°C.

This flexitarian diet means the average world citizen needs to eat 75 percent less beef, 90 percent less pork and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses, and quadrupling nuts and seeds.

This would halve emissions from livestock and better management of manure would enable further cuts.

In rich nations, the dietary changes required are even more stark.

British and US citizens need to cut beef by 90 percent and milk by 60 percent, while increasing beans and pulses between four and six times.

However, the millions of people in poor nations who are undernourished need to eat a little more meat and dairy.

Reducing meat consumption might be achieved by a mix of education, taxes, subsidies for plant-based foods, and changes to school and workplace menus, the scientists said.

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