A Meat and Dairy Article from All-Creatures.org

The Global Impact of Cutting Meat And Dairy Consumption in Half

From SpeciesUnite.com
September 2023

Substituting half of the world's beef, chicken, pork, and milk consumption with plant-based alternatives by mid-century has the potential to virtually eliminate net deforestation.

Species Unite

From dystopian orange skies in New York to devastating flash floods across Florida, this summer has witnessed the undeniable impact of the climate crisis across the United States - and scientists warn that this is only the beginning.

Although individual action can feel hopeless in the face of such a vast and complex threat, a shows that there is something all of us can do to help keep planetary warming below catastrophic levels: eat less animal products.

By replacing half of global beef, chicken, pork, and milk consumption with plant-based alternatives by mid-century, net deforestation can be virtually eliminated, according to the paper published on Tuesday.

The restored area could also contribute up to 25 percent of the estimated global land restoration needs under Target 2 of the by 2030.

In addition, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would be slashed by 31 percent by 2050. To put it in perspective, this reduction, as estimated by , is equivalent to avoiding the burning of 1.8 trillion pounds of coal every year from 2020 to 2050.

“We can have a real impact by replacing our meat and dairy consumption with plant-based alternatives — even just partially,” said Marta Kozicka, an agricultural economist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria who led the modeling.

Even though animal products make up less than 20 percent of the world's food energy supply, they are responsible for the effects on land use, water use, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions within the global food systems.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) that 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are to animal agriculture, with a significant portion of these emissions resulting from the rearing of animals and the cultivation of their feed.

“We’ll need much more than ‘Meatless Mondays’ to reduce the global GHG emissions driving climate change - and this study shows us a path forward,” said study co-author Eva Wollenberg from the University of Vermont (UVM). “Plant-based meats are not just a novel food product, but a critical opportunity for achieving food security and climate goals while also achieving health and biodiversity objectives worldwide.”

This groundbreaking study, conducted by scientists from UVM, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, as well as researchers at Impossible Foods, a company that develops plant-based meat alternatives, represents the first comprehensive analysis of the global food security and environmental impacts associated with the widespread consumption of plant-based meat and milk products.

Their findings show that by substituting 50 percent of animal-based products with plant-based alternatives, the growing environmental toll of food systems on the environment would be hugely reduced by 2050. In comparison to the year 2020, the impacts would include:

  • Global agricultural area declines by 12 percent instead of expanding
  • The decline in areas of forest and other natural land is almost completely halted
  • Nitrogen inputs to cropland are nearly half of the projections
  • Water use declines by 10 percent instead of increasing
  • Without accounting for any carbon sequestration on spared land, GHG emissions could decline by 2.1 Gt CO2eq year-1 (31 percent) in 2050 (1.6 Gt CO2eq year-1 on average in 2020–2050)
  • Undernourishment globally declines to 3.6 percent, as compared to 3.8 percent in the reference scenario (reducing the number of undernourished people by 31 million)

Return to Meat and Dairy Articles
Read more at Egg Production Articles
Read more at Environment Articles