Global meat consumption must fall to curb global warming, reduce growing strains on land and water and improve food security, health and biodiversity, a United Nations report on the effects of climate change says.
Plant-based foods and sustainable animal-sourced food could free up several million square kilometers of land by 2050 and cut 0.7-8.0 gigatonnes a year of carbon dioxide equivalent, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said.
Land can be both a source and sink of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, and better land management can help to tackle climate change, the IPCC said.
Since the pre-industrial era, land surface air temperature has risen by 1.53 degrees Celsius, twice as much as the global average temperature (0.87C), causing more heatwaves, droughts and heavy rain, as well as land degradation and desertification.
Last year, the IPCC’s first special report warned that keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), rather than the 2C target agreed under the Paris accord, required rapid change across society.
The IPCC warned of more disruption to global food chains as extreme weather becomes more frequent due to climate change and said environmental costs should be factored into food.
It projects a median increase of 7.6% in cereal prices by 2050, meaning higher food prices and an increased risk of hunger.