The Impact of Your Food Choices on Global Warming

Population growth, expansion of food production, and an increase in animal-based diets are likely to further increase emissions and squeeze the global carbon budget. (Credits: AFP)

Researchers Analyze Data Linking Emissions to Consumers

A study reveals that in 2019, food consumption in the five highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting countries, including India, accounted for over 40% of global food supply chain emissions. The study, published in the journal Nature Food, emphasizes the urgent need to reduce emissions from the global food system, which currently contributes to one-third of man-made GHG emissions, in order to combat climate change and protect the environment.

The largest increase in emissions within food supply chains is driven by the consumption of beef and dairy products in rapidly developing countries like China and India. In contrast, developed countries with a higher percentage of animal-based food have experienced a decline in emissions per capita. However, with the growth of the global population and the increasing demand for emission-intensive food, emissions are expected to rise further.

According to Professor Klaus Hubacek from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, shifting to a global diet that reduces excessive intake of red meat and promotes plant-based protein not only helps in reducing emissions, but also avoids health risks like obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Yuli Shan from the University of Birmingham, UK emphasizes that the agrifood system plays a significant role in global land use and agricultural activities, contributing to approximately one-third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Shan, the corresponding author of the study, warns that population growth, expansion of food production, and an increase in animal-based diets will further escalate emissions and strain the global carbon budget. Yanxian Li, a Ph.D. student at the University of Groningen and the first author of the study, highlights the critical importance of mitigating emissions at every stage of the food supply chain, from production to consumption, in order to limit global warming. Li suggests that incentivizing consumers to reduce their consumption of red meat or purchase products with higher environmental benefits can help reduce food emissions.

The researchers examined data from 2000 to 2019 and found that food consumption in the five highest emitting countries – China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and the US – was responsible for more than 40% of global food supply chain emissions in 2019.

Over the 20-year period, annual global greenhouse gas emissions associated with food increased by 14%. The significant increase in the consumption of animal-based products accounted for around 95% of the global emissions rise, contributing almost half of the total food emissions.

Beef and dairy production contributed 32% and 46% respectively to the increase in global animal-based emissions.

The consumption of grains and oil crops is responsible for 43% and 23% of global plant-based emissions respectively, with rice being the leading contributor to grain-related emissions, particularly in Indonesia, China, and India.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)

 

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