New research says chances of meeting the Paris Agreement’s global warming targets are being jeopardised by food production, which accounts for around 30 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
An international team of scientists modelled the impact of different changes to the food system and says that “unprecedented” initiatives, such as reducing food waste and shifting to plant-rich diets, are needed urgently to meet emission targets.
The study says that even if greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels used in the global food system were immediately halted, the remaining greenhouse gasses otherwise produced from global food production would make it difficult to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting temperature increases to 1.5° Celsius (C) above pre-industrial levels.
Much of the effort to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions has focused on reducing emissions from fossil fuel combustion in electricity production, transportation, and industry, but the study findings reveal the critical contribution from food production-related emissions.
Major sources of emissions in food production include land clearing and deforestation for agriculture and livestock production, production and use of fertilisers, and combustion of fossil fuels in food production and supply chains.
Food production worldwide released an average of 16 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents per year from 2012 to 2017. But little is known about how the global food system’s considerable emissions impact the ability to meet the climate warming targets outlined by the Paris Accord.
To address this, Michael Clark and colleagues forecasted continued GHG emissions from the global food system and found that mitigating or reducing food system-related emissions is critical to meeting the 1.5° and 2 °C warming targets.
According to the results, business-as-usual food system emissions from 2020 to 2100 could equal as much as 1,356 gigatons – an amount that would exceed the 1.5°C limit between 2051 and 2063, and approximately equal the 2 ° C emissions limit by the end of the century.
Clark et al. outline several ways in which these emissions could be significantly reduced through changes in diets, agricultural efficiency and reductions in food waste, which, if fully realised, could result in a carbon neutral or even marginally carbon negative food system.
Link to research HERE.