Food and climate change: less meat to save the planet


Our lifestyle has a great impact on the climate, starting with nutrition that is one of the main causes of climate change. This is what the report “Climate change and territory” suggests, published by the UN scientific committee on climate (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC).

We all know that the use of the car, the domestic heating and cooling systems, the factories produce pollution, but we never think about how much pollution produces what we eat: 72% of the land area is used to feed a constantly growing population. Global agriculture is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity, while cattle and rice fields alone are responsible for half of global methane emissions, one of the most deadly greenhouse gases. Furthermore, intensive exploitation of agricultural land has contributed to soil erosion and impoverishment as well as deforestation.

Livestock is responsible for 18% of emissions: the entire meat production chain, from breeding to consumption, requires a considerable use of land, water, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, with a heavy impact on biodiversity.

The intensive exploitation of arable land that heating will make ever smaller in extension is a luxury that today we can no longer afford, underlines the document of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The entire approach of the planet Earth to the production and consumption of food is to be reviewed because we have reached a point where it is no longer possible to think that to cut emissions it is enough to act only on the front of energy and transport.

All vegetarians and vegans, then? It could be a solution but it would be enough to change the food style by reducing the consumption of meat, which in recent years has grown exponentially.

“Diets balanced with plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables and food of animal origin sustainably produced in low-emission greenhouse gas systems, offer important opportunities for adaptation and limitation of changes climates “, explains Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC II working group, who contributed to the report.

To limit the rise in global temperature, therefore, a widespread change in dietary habits towards low-carbon diets, which involve a greater consumption of vegetables and fruit, and a substantial reduction in the consumption of red meat is necessary. These diets also have significant health benefits. And let’s not forget that today 821 million people worldwide are undernourished (one person in 10) while two billion are suffering from obesity (2.5 people out of 10).

“We do not want to tell people what to eat – adds Hans-Otto Pörtner, one of the members of the IPCC working group – but it would undoubtedly represent a benefit, both for the climate and for human health, if the population of rich countries consumed less meat, and if politicians created appropriate incentives to achieve this “.

No less important is the avoidance of food waste. According to the report, 25-30% of all food produced is never eaten, while millions of people around the world do not have the food necessary to ensure their livelihood.

The IPCC report also provides other interesting insights:

– From the pre-industrial period the temperature on the land has already increased by 1.53 degrees Celsius. The global average of the increase is 0.87 taking into account the change in temperature over the oceans.

– More than a quarter of the Earth’s land is subject to “human-induced degradation” and bioenergy production can represent a significant danger to food security and soil degradation.

– It is essential to proceed with the gradual elimination of fossil fuels because concentrating solely on land use will not be enough to win the battle against climate change

– 23 percent of human emissions of greenhouse gases derive from deforestation, fires and industrial agriculture.

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