A striking new study has revealed that global food waste is a massive contributor to climate change. The study, published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, has estimated that the food dumped around the world has a massive bearing on global warming. According to the study, in the year 2010, food production as a whole was 20 percent higher than required on a world scale, contributing to a similar spike in the planet’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.
According to contributing researcher and co-author Prajal Pradhan, the apparent link between global food waste and greenhouse gas emissions can hardly be misconstrued.
“Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse-gas emissions and help mitigate climate change. Changing individual behavior to avoid food waste could be one key towards mitigating the climate crisis.”
According to the study, a more sustainable food production and “adjusted consumption” was likely to bring about positive environmental effects. The findings were based on a global reading of annual “country” level food waste statistics in light of the prevalent food supply and demand. These estimates also took into account on a the demographic basis, the various consumption trends observed in specific populations. Any surplus between food supply and demand of a given country was identified as food waste.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme – UNEP, of the nearly 40 percent of the food produced for human consumption every year around the world, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes gets lost or wasted. Moreover, consumers in the more affluent countries account for a significant portion of this wasted food, amounting to over 200 million tonnes. These consumers are commonly encouraged to make more food purchases than actually required. What is still worse is that this annual wastage is equivalent to over half of the world’s annual cereals crop.
Experts continue to warn that the repercussions of such a colossal squandering of the planet’s most crucial resource may extend far beyond mere economics. Environmentally, this wastage is said to contribute to the release of chemicals namely fertilizers and pesticides, producing many deadly greenhouse gases that exacerbate global warming namely methane, known to be over 20 times more lethal than carbon dioxide. According to recent figures, in the USA alone, “organic” waste is a key element of landfills, recognized as the major source of methane emissions. To add to the problem, as much as 40 percent of the entire US food supply is wasted or lost.
According to Isabelle Denis from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), nearly one third of global food production is lost or almost completely wasted.
“We must know that food waste or losses have an impact on climate change, because we use resources (water, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, energy, and labour) to produce this food that we will not use. It has an impact on the production of greenhouse gas emissions and consequently on climate change. In developing countries, food losses during harvest and storage reduce the income of small farmers and result in a higher price for poor consumers who can’t afford to pay for the food. Reducing food losses can therefore have an impact on improving the livelihoods and food security of small farmers and poor consumers.”
Meanwhile, climate experts have been warning that human handling of non-renewable resources is radically transforming the planet’s vulnerable ecosystems and that the amount of food waste generated around the world needs to be drastically reduced in order to alter the tide of these dangerous developments.They continue to urge that human beings need to halt the pace of unsustainable consumption to secure the planet’s shrinking pool of natural resources.
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