Dietary shifts key to both climate mitigation and managing impacts

Dietary shifts

New research highlights the role changes in diet could play in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Creative Commons: 2011

With new research into the climate impact of our dietary requirements, and with more and more food commodities feeling the effects of climate change, the connections between the climate and our food are once again hitting the headlines.

Last week a new in-depth report on food systems around the world aimed to showcase the biggest potential impacts that changes in agriculture could have on curbing emissions.

Among the results, cutting meat consumption (and production) could yield the biggest benefit, along with other shifts in dietary trends.

Published by research groups Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates the research found that cutting meat consumption could lead to large cuts in carbon emissions, without substantial lifestyle changes in target countries.

World meat consumption is growing as incomes rise and populations grow.

But livestock production has a large carbon footprint – around 50-70% of direct agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

The wide adoption of a “healthy diet” of 90 grams of protein a day could cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 2.15 billion tonnes of CO2e annually by 2030, according to the report.

Further research from the UN Economic Commission has also found that halving meat and dairy consumption in Europe could cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 25-40%.

Regardless of whether dietary trends are likely to shift for the purposes of climate change mitigation, they may already be shifting as a necessity of climate change adaptation.

International burrito chain Chipotle announced last week that extreme weather-driven price spike in beef are forcing the company to raise prices.

Ikea, meanwhile, is shifting to meatless meatballs as part of its efforts to make the company more sustainable and profitable.

And beyond the meat world, extreme weather is having a significant affect on other food commodities: wheat prices just hit a 14-month high, corn and soybean yield forecasts are dropping and coffee prices have risen so much that some are warning of a ‘coffee apocalypse.’

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