Animal-Based Food Generates Nearly Twice the Emissions as Plant, Says Study

by DailyBriefers
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AFP published the following article:

Animal farming accounts for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as plants grown for consumption, according to a study published Monday that mapped agricultural activities worldwide.

What humans eat accounts for a major chunk of the emissions behind climate-change — transportation, deforestation, cold-storage and the digestive systems of cattle all send polluting gases into the atmosphere. 

Researchers looked at carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide released by food production and consumption from farming on land. And they found that, from 2007 to 2013, the emissions amounted to 17.318 billion metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases per year — or 35 percent of all human-caused emissions.

The study, which modelled net emissions for over 170 plant and 16 animal products in nearly 200 countries, calculated that 57 percent of food-related emissions were from animal-based foods — including crops grown to feed livestock. 

Plants grown for human consumption generated 29 percent of food emissions, the study published in Nature Food found, and the rest was attributed to other commodities like cotton and rubber. It did not include emissions from fisheries. 

Plant-based diets are widely thought to be better for the planet — but lead researcher Atul Jain, of the University of Illinois, said he wanted to know exactly how much, admitting he had a personal reason for wanting to dig deeper into the issue.  

“I’ve been a vegetarian since my childhood,” he told AFP. “I wanted to estimate what my carbon footprint was.” 

To come up with a consistent model for so many different products, Jain’s team set to work from the ground up, breaking down the globe’s farmland into some 60,000 grid squares.

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