Meat-Eating Must Drastically Fall In Order To Support Growing World Population And Halt Climate Change

Cows grazing in a field.
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Our current food habits are draining the planet of its resources, contributing to cataclysmic climate change, and leaving billions of people underfed, reports the Guardian. A report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) warns that if meat production continues at its current rate, we will need 50 percent more food by 2050 to feed a growing world population. Additionally, if we don’t decrease production by two-thirds, the world’s remaining forests will face complete destruction and climate change will continue spiraling out of control.

Meat and dairy production uses 83 percent of all farmland available and also produces 60 percent of the world’s agricultural emissions. The WRI warns that in addition to the environmental concerns that arise from the consumption and production of food, humans are facing an “existential issue.”

Tim Searchinger, of the WRI and Princeton University, expands on the issue.

“If we tried to produce all the food needed in 2050 using today’s production systems, the world would have to convert most of its remaining forest, and agriculture alone would produce almost twice the emissions allowable from all human activities.”

Several recent reports have backed up the WRI’s warnings. Many scientific analyses, including some revealed at the U.N. climate summit in Poland, show that reducing and avoiding meat and dairy products is the main way we can cut down on environmental costs and avoid detrimental climate change. It is also the single biggest way an individual person can reduce their environmental impact.

Other reports have revealed that the global food system is contributing to the malnourishment of billions of people around the world while also allowing billions more people to maintain unhealthy diets that lead to obesity.

The WRI report details that eating meat from cattle and sheep causes the most methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas. It goes on to suggest that people in developed nations who rely heavily on diets consisting of these animals should reduce their consumption to 1.5 servings per week, which comes out to about a 40 percent reduction.

Richard Waite, of the WRI’s food program, detailed how we can best implement these necessary changes.

“Given the scale of change needed, it is going to require government intervention, certainly to get there quick enough. I think a meat tax is something that will ultimately come about, in a five-year-plus timeframe. It took a long time for a sugar tax to become credible [but] it’s been put in place.”

In addition to cutting down on meat consumption, other changes to farming are needed, such as better feed for the animals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limiting biofuels, and cutting down on energy used for farm machinery.