In Summary
  • Food production – which produces damaging greenhouse gases from livestock, ruins enormous swathes of forests and uses unsustainable amounts of water.

  • Experts argue that cutting meat consumption is one obvious way that citizens can do their bit for the climate

  • Livestock farming poses a triple threat to Earth's atmosphere, as animals produce huge amounts of the greenhouse gas methane, coupled with the loss of carbon-absorbing forests that are felled to accommodate their grazing areas.

The world must drastically reduce its meat consumption in order to avoid devastating climate change, scientists said Wednesday in the most thorough study so far on how what we eat affects the environment.

As humanity grapples with tough choices to offset a rapidly heating planet, the research suggests that the Western world would need to slash its meat intake by 90 per cent to avoid crippling Earth's ability to sustain an anticipated 10 billion people by 2050.

Food production – which produces damaging greenhouse gases from livestock, ruins enormous swathes of forests and uses unsustainable amounts of water – is a major contributor to climate change.

A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature offers the most comprehensive look yet at just how bad intensive agriculture is for the planet.

Without a huge drawdown in the amount of meat consumed, its authors said, the food industry's already vast impact on the environment could increase by as much as 90 per cent by mid-century.

That coupled with a sharp projected rise in global population would devastate mankind's ability to effectively feed itself – and dash any realistic hope of curbing runaway global warming.

The scientists called for a "global shift" towards more plant-based diets, slashing food waste and improving farming practices with the aid of technology to cope with the burden.

GLOBAL WARMING

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