Eating less beef could dramatically cut farming emissions

( ) Updated: 2014-05-05 14:13:47

Global carbon emissions from agriculture can be reduced by 50 to 90 percent by 2030 using strategies including eating less beef, reducing food waste and managing soil nutrients better, according to a report released Friday by Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates.

If all the strategies recommended were implemented, up to 5 gigatons of emissions could be eliminated from the agriculture sector, the equivalent of removing all the cars in the world, the two groups said.

The report, titled Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change in Agriculture, looked at both food consumption and production.

It found that agriculture is responsible for roughly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions and that about 70 percent of direct greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from livestock, in particular from cows, sheep and other grazing animals.

Considering beef's immense share of livestock carbon emissions, six times greater than poultry on a per unit basis, much of these emissions could be eliminated if beef demand were reduced, said the report.

"I realize that the question of whether or not the diets of any population can be changed is a difficult one," co-author of the study Amy Dickie of California Environmental Associates told Xinhua.

"However, it is clear that it is important to try given the very large climate footprint of meat. We will learn a lot in experimentation," she added.

Convincing the Americans and Chinese to eat less beef is of particular importance, the report said.

The U.S. is already beginning to consume less beef but still remains the world's biggest consumers of red meat, it said. Per capita beef consumption in the country dropped from its peak of 88. 8 pounds (about 40.3 kilograms) in 1976 to 58.7 pounds (about 26.6 kilograms) in 2009, still excessive by global standards, the report said.

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