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Meat consumption needs 50% reduction to meet climate change target, says researcher

6 commentsBy Caroline Scott-Thomas , 16-Apr-2012

Meat consumption would need to be reduced by 50% per person in order to meet nitrous oxide reduction targets set out in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft report, according to a new study.

The research, led by Dr. Eric Davidson and published in Environmental Research Letters, examines the challenge of stabilizing nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions by 2050 – the most aggressive reduction scenario outlined in the IPCC draft report . Unlike the two most prevalent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO₂) and methane (CH₄),  N2O is a critical element in food production. Its main sources are manure and synthetic fertilizers.

Davidson, president and a senior scientist at the Woods Hold Research Center in Massachusetts, said that stabilizing N2O emissions by 2050 would require improved management of fertilizer and manure sources, as well as reduction of the developed world’s per capita meat consumption to reduce fertilizer demand and reduce the growth in the amount of manure being produced.

“We have the technical know-how and the tools to greatly improve efficiencies of fertilizer use in agriculture, although several economic and political impediments often stand in the way of their adoption,” Davidson said.

He calculated that meat consumption would need to be reduced by half using Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data, which assume the world’s population will hit 8.9bn by 2050, with an increased daily per capita calorie intake of 3130 kcal. The FAO data also suggest that average meat consumption per person in the developed world will rise from 78kg per year in 2002 to 89kg per year in 2030. For the developing world, per capita consumption is predicted to increase from 28kg per year in 2002 to 37kg per year in 2030.

As for whether such a major reduction in meat consumption would be possible, Davidson said: “That will depend, not only on education about diet, but also on prices of meat. Some agricultural economists think that the price of meat is going to go way up, so that per capita consumption will go down, but those are highly uncertain projections.”

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6 comments (Comments are now closed)

A Reply to "More Garbage Science"

Yes, plants require CO2 to function, but don't forget that all the CO2 they intake is released back into the atmosphere when they die, and thus can be used by other plants. We don't need anymore excess CO2. That's part of the reason that in the original Kyoto Accord that countries weren't going to be allowed to plant trees in order to lower their global footprint. It's a stop-gap measure at best. And sustainability is only a joke to those who don't want to see the truth. Many claims are taken too far, but to simply dismiss them as lies is inappropriate at well.

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Posted by M Snip
26 April 2012 | 21h24

Bait and Switch

The spotted owl wasn't about animal welfare it was about the forest. The greens wanted to stop logging at any cost. The owl was just the vehicle and was objectively junk science. This is no different. This is about supposed animal cruelty and not the climate. They won't be happy until we are all vegans. Sustainability, what a joke...

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Posted by Eric Hein
17 April 2012 | 20h27

Get the basics right, first.

Water vapor is the most prevalent “greenhouse gas” in the atmosphere, by far, in both concentration and effect. (E.g., 1-4% vs. 0.035% for CO2).

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Posted by N. Lobachevski
17 April 2012 | 19h47

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