A new study shows that huge reductions in meat consumption are essential to avoid a dangerous and catastrophic climate breakdown.
According to major research, beef consumption in western countries needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by 5 times more beans and pulses.
The study also found that there must be made significant changes in farming if we wish to avoid destroying the planet’s ability to provide us with food for 10 billion people.
It is clear that food production is already causing damage to our natural habitat. This is due to deforestation, water shortages from farming, the emission of greenhouse gasses from livestock and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution.
However, if we don’t take further action the effects of these circumstances can be very dangerous. In fact, it is expected that as a result of the rise of the world population by 2050, the impact would get far worse, enabling everyone to eat more meat-rich western diets. This dangerous chain of events would eventually destroy the critical environmental limits which will force humanity to struggle.
“It is pretty shocking. 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” said Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, who led the research team.
Prof Johan Rockström at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was also a part of the research team explained that feeding a world population of 10 billion is possible, but only if we make significant changes in the food production and the food consumption.
“Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today.”
The new research published in the Nature journal follows the publication of a landmark UN report in which world’s leading scientists warned that we only have just a few years to take action and keep the global warming under 1.5C. The report also warned that a significant reduction in meat and dairy consumption is also very important, especially since the current trends are going in the opposite direction.
“There is no magic bullet,” said Springmann. “But dietary and technological change [on farms] are the two essential things, and hopefully they can be complemented by a reduction in food loss and waste.”
The researchers found a way to make this whole process a lot easier by introducing a flexitarian diet to keep climate change under 2C. This means that an average person needs to eat 75% less beef, 90% less pork and half the number of eggs while tripling the consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling the consumption of seeds and nuts. Incorporating these foods in our diets would halve the emissions from livestock and the better management of manure would allow even more cuts.
In richer countries such as the UK and US, the average person needs to cut beef by 90% dairy by 60% and increase the consumption of beans and pulses by 4 or 6 times. However, we mustn’t forget the fact that the undernourished people in the poorer country need to eat a little more dairy and meat.
According to them, reducing the meat production and consumption can be achieved a mix of education, taxes, subsidies for plant-based foods and changes to school and workplace menus, the scientists said.
To stop deforestation, water shortages and pollution from fertilizers, there must be made big, profound changes in farming.
All of these changes are already being implemented in different parts of the world. According to Springmann, in the Netherlands and Israel, fertilizers and water are being better used, while a big decrease in meat consumption can be noticed among mainly young people.
“I was surprised by the fact we need a combination of very ambitious options,” Springmann said. “We really need to push it to the edge of what is possible.”
However, he explains that what we now need is a change on a global scale.
“I think we can do it, but we really need much more proactive governments to provide the right framework. People can make a personal difference by changing their diet, but also by knocking on the doors of their politicians and saying we need better environmental regulations – that is also very important. Do not let politicians off the hook.”
Prof Peter Smith at the University of Aberdeen, who was also not part of the research team, said: “We know food choices are very personal, and that behavior change can be difficult to encourage, but the evidence is now unequivocal – we need to change our diets if we are to have a sustainable future. The fact that it will also make us healthier makes it a no-brainer.”
I couldn’t agree more. Personally, I am ready to do whatever it takes to preserve and protect our home. The question is, are YOU?
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