Without Changes, Global Food Systems May Drive World Beyond Climate Targets, Says Study

Mixed livestock, central Mongolia. (Kevin Krajick/Earth Institute)

A new study by climate scientists sheds light on the significant role food systems will play in future global warming, and what can be done about it. The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, finds that food production, distribution and consumption under existing practices could add around 1 degree C to planetary warming by 2100—and, in turn, risk exceeding the internationally agreed-upon 1.5 C temperature target.

The study, which is based on extensive global datasets, models and data from more than 100 studies, shows that more than half of this warming, about 55 percent, could be avoided by changes in agricultural production practices, decarbonization of the energy used to produce food, shifts in consumer food choices, and reductions of food waste. The top agricultural sources of greenhouse gases identified by the study: production of meat, dairy and rice.

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