When residents of the 54 richest countries switch to a primarily plant-based diet, their food production will be 60 percent less carbon dioxide per year.2 emitted from what is currently the case. And the knife cuts both ways: changing the diet also offers the potential to save about 100 gigatons of carbon dioxide between now and the end of the century.2 By restoring the original vegetation on land that is no longer used for meat production. who – which Researchers calculate From Leiden University this week in nature foods.
Meat consumption in rich countries contributes significantly to carbon dioxide2emissions. In total, about 13.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide are added to food production worldwide2 per year, 26 percent of total emissions. In rich countries, 70 percent of food-related emissions come from animal products, while in poor countries 22 percent come. Consumption is even more skewed, in rich countries six times more meat is eaten than in poor countries.
Ten billion people
To what extent CO2Emissions drop if large meat consumers switch to plant foods more than once. Leiden researchers focused in particular on the “double gain” that could be achieved if the original vegetation was returned to the liberated land. They have taken the EAT-Lancet Diet as a starting point for changing meat consumption. This is nutritional advice published in early 2019 by a panel of scientists in the journal scalpel It was published, and the idea is that ten billion people can eat healthy food, in a way that the planet can handle quite well. It is mainly a vegetarian diet, but there is also room for dairy (250ml per day) and small amounts of fish and (white) meat (around 200g per week).
It is not possible to just plant a tree everywhere where there is no longer any meat production. “Of course, it wouldn’t grow more than grass in a high alpine meadow. There have been forests in other places that you can get them back in,” says Arnold Tucker, professor of industrial ecology at Leiden University and co-author of the research. In agriculture for meat and livestock, we looked specifically at what the natural vegetation is and calculated how much carbon can be stored above ground in the plant or tree itself and underground in the roots and what happens when that vegetation dies and is absorbed into the ground.”
According to a conservative calculation, by the time the vegetation is fully grown, 56 gigatons of carbon dioxide2 Recorded, in a positive calculation of 144 Gt, the researchers averaged 98 Gt. More than half of the confiscations will be in four major countries with high forage and pasture areas: the United States (26.3 percent, 26 Gt), Australia (13.5 percent, 13 Gt), Germany (7.7 percent, 7 Gt tons) and France (7.6%, 7 gigatons). Increased consumption of protein-rich plant products such as soybeans was compensated for, but changes in emissions, among other things, from transportation and packaging were not included.
There are more benefits. Indigenous vegetation is more diverse than what currently occurs on Earth, which may lead to improved biodiversity. And there are health benefits: less obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease due to eating less meat and sugar.
This has a huge impact on the agricultural sector
Arnold Tucker Professor of environmental science
But restoring natural vegetation may not be a top priority when land becomes available. Land is also essential for crop production for biofuels and for sustainable energy generation. “And such a massive shift in the diet also has a huge impact on the agriculture sector, of course, which will not go unhindered in many countries,” says Tucker.
Then there is the human side. “Eating differently is in itself a climate measure that anyone can implement overnight, other than making natural gas in your home or conditioning your commute, which are the other two main sources of consumer emissions. But we live in a polarized society, if you start imposing this on people, You can only get the impression that Henk and Ingrid are taken from their steak.And many people have the idea that this diet is less tasty, although many chefs have long shown that it is not.My hope rests on Albert Heinz and jumbo out of this world, in showing that vegetarian food can also be easy and delicious.”
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of January 12, 2022
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