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STUDY: Meat, dairy and rice production will bust 1.5C climate target

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We already know that livestock production has a disproportionate contribution to climate change – even using traditional metrics, in 2021 we showed that 57% of emissions from the food system arise from animal agriculture, said Prof Pete Smith, at the University of Aberdeen, UK.

DAMIAN CARRINGTON: Climate-heating emissions from food production, dominated by meat, dairy and rice, will by themselves break the key international target of 1.5C if left unchecked, a detailed study has shown. The analysis estimated that if today’s level of food emissions continued, they would result in at least 0.7C of global heating by the end of the century, on top of the 1C rise already seen. This means emissions from food alone, ignoring the huge impact of fossil fuels, would push the world past the 1.5C limit.

The study showed that 75% of this food-related heating was driven by foods that are high sources of methane, ie those coming from ruminant livestock such as cattle, and rice paddy fields. However, the scientists said the temperature rise could be cut by 55% by cutting meat consumption in rich countries to medically recommended levels, reducing emissions from livestock and their manure, and using renewable energy in the food system.

Previous studies have shown the huge impact of food production on the environment, particularly meat and dairy, but the new study provides estimates of the temperature rises their emissions could cause. These could be a significant underestimate, however, as the study assumed animal product consumption would remain level in the future but it was projected to rise by 70% by 2050…

The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, treated each greenhouse gas separately for 94 key types of food, enabling their impact on climate over time to be better understood. Feeding this emissions data into a widely used climate model showed that the continuation of today’s food production would lead to a rise of 0.7C by 2100 if global population growth was low, and a 0.9C rise if population growth was high…

“We already know that livestock production has a disproportionate contribution to climate change – even using traditional metrics, in 2021 we showed that 57% of emissions from the food system arise from animal agriculture,” said Prof Pete Smith, at the University of Aberdeen, UK. “This very neat study uses a simple climate model to show the disproportionate impact of methane emissions from agriculture on temperature increases, and throws light on the importance of reducing methane emissions from the food system”. SOURCE…

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