Reduce meat consumption for climate, says new report

A new study has singled out fertilisers used to grow animal feed and livestock manure as major contributors of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, and called for a 50% reduction in meat consumption by the developed world.

The study, which was written by Dr Eric Davidson of the US Woods Hole Research Center, described N20 as “the most potent greenhouse gas”. It concluded that in order to meet the most agressive strategy to reduce N20 emissions set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the developed world will have to cut agricultural and industrial emissions by half.

It proposed that agricultural emissions of N20 could be slashed by cutting meat consumption and improving management of fertilsers and manure on farms, using technology to reduce emissions.

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

Davidson said that convincing people to eat less meat would be difficult, but pointed out that anti-smoking campaigns had successfully cut smoking rates, suggesting that people can change behaviour over a long period of time. He added that rising meat prices may force people to eat less meat in the future.

“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,” he said.

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