Climate scientists say 'Eat less meat'

Global meat consumption has once more come under attack in the fight against climate change.

A paper published by online science journal, The Lancet, proposed a 10% cut in meat consumption worldwide by 2050 to reduce the effects of global warming. It also suggested that no more than 50% of the meat consumed should be red meat from ruminants such as cattle and sheep.

The paper, entitled 'Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health' was led by Professor Anthony McMichael, from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, Canberra.

Agriculture currently accounts for 22% of global warming emissions, with livestock production accounting for nearly 80% of the sector's emissions. Although steps are being taken to reduce the environmental impacts of livestock farming, there is concern that the growing consumption of meat in developing countries could worsen meat production's impact on climate change.

The study recommends that industrialised countries should reduce the amount of meat they eat to balance out increased consumption elsewhere.

"Livestock production is projected, on current trends, to increase substantially over the next four decades, mainly in countries of low or middle income," said the study.

"We therefore advocate a contraction and convergence strategy to reduce consumption of livestock products, mirroring the widely supported strategy proposed for greenhouse-gas emissions in general.

"Contraction of consumption in high-income countries per head would then define the lower, common, ceiling to which low-income and middle-income countries could also converge.

"Assuming a 40% increase in global population by 2050 and no advance in livestock-related greenhouse-gas reduction practices, global meat consumption would need to fall to an average of 90g per person per day just to stabilise emissions from this sector.

"Such a decrease would require a substantial reduction of meat consumption in industrialised countries and constrained growth in demand in developing countries, especially of red meat from ruminant (methane-producing) animals."

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