Monday, March 31, 2014

The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets

For agriculture, there are three major options for mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: 1) productivity improvements, particularly in the livestock sector; 2) dedicated technical mitigation measures; and 3) human dietary changes. The aim of the paper is to estimate long-term agricultural GHG emissions, under different mitigation scenarios, and to relate them to the emissions space compatible with the 2 °C temperature target. Our estimates include emissions up to 2070 from agricultural soils, manure management, enteric fermentation and paddy rice fields, and are based on IPCC Tier 2 methodology. We find that baseline agricultural CO₂-equivalent emissions (using Global Warming Potentials with a 100 year time horizon) will be approximately 13 Gton CO₂eq/year in 2070, compared to 7.1 Gton CO₂eq/year 2000. However, if faster growth in livestock productivity is combined with dedicated technical mitigation measures, emissions may be kept to 7.7 Gton CO₂eq/year in 2070. If structural changes in human diets are included, emissions may be reduced further, to 3–5 Gton CO₂eq/year in 2070. The total annual emissions for meeting the 2 °C target with a chance above 50 % is in the order of 13 Gton CO₂eq/year or less in 2070, for all sectors combined. We conclude that reduced ruminant meat and dairy consumption will be indispensable for reaching the 2 °C target with a high probability, unless unprecedented advances in technology take place.

Fredrik Hedenus, Stefan Wirsenius, Daniel J. A. Johansson
Department of Energy and Environment, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

Climatic Change. Published online 28 March 2014.

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism