Phasing Out Animal Agriculture Could Offset Emissions for 30-50 Years

Phasing Out Animal Agriculture Could Offset Emissions for 30-50 Years

A new study predicts that if the world were to phase out all meat and dairy over the next 15 years, it would cancel out emissions from all other sectors for 30 to 50 years. Animal agriculture accounts for about 15% the world's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 30% of the earth's land is being used to raise animals or grow crops to feed them. Stopping emissions from animal agriculture and replanting farmland would put a major dent in the world's carbon output.

Why This Matters

The research is clear: Meat and dairy consumption needs to be dramatically lowered. This study arrives on the heels of another study released last week, showing that rich countries could reduce their agriculture emissions by 61% by following a standardized plant-based diet.

About a third of all climate-damaging emissions worldwide come from agricultural systems. Meanwhile, 20 milk and livestock companies produce more greenhouse gas emissions than Britain, France, or Germany, and the world's five biggest meat and dairy companies emit the same volume of GHGs as fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil.

Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union: Launch of the Meat Atlas 2021: Facts and figures about the animals we eat, September 8, 2021.

Eating Less Meat

It would be extremely difficult -- even impossible -- to phase out meat and dairy production in 15 years. Two billion people, primarily in the global south, rely on animal agriculture for food and income. Plant-based substitutes make up only 1% of the global meat market. Moreover, the global population is eating more meat each year.

If artificial meat and dairy alternatives get cheaper and tastier, the political, corporate, and social barriers to going plant-based might start to crumble. Governments will also have to supplement market-driven solutions with policies that regulate the meat industry to reach emissions goals.

Across the world, three-quarters of all agricultural land is used to raise animals or the crops to feed them. (Source: Meat Atlas 2021/OECD, FAO.)

Sentient Media: Food System Emissions - How Can We Reduce Our Carbon Footprint?, June 18, 2021.