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cutting vegetables Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/UIG via Getty Images

Climate Change on the Menu

In the battle against climate change, most policymaking is focused on lowering the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. But if we are to keep global warming in check, it is also imperative that we reduce global meat consumption, eat more vegetables and grains, and end food waste.

VITERBO, ITALY – When we think about winning the fight against climate change, most people concentrate on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, trucks, and other machines powered by fossil fuels. But while these emissions sources are certainly worthy of our attention, another culprit receives far less than it deserves: our food.

Farm and food sustainability are important pieces of the climate-change puzzle, but at the moment, climate-sustainable diets are not on the menu. In the developing world, some 821 million people currently suffer from hunger. Meanwhile, rich countries waste enough food every year to feed 750 million people.

Here is where the connection between food and climate change comes in: as people climb out of poverty – as many are – they demand more meat and dairy. This trend has grave implications for agriculture’s ecological footprint. Animals consume more food than they produce. Cows release large volumes of heat-trapping methane. And clearing land for pasture releases carbon dioxide at a staggering rate. If the beef and dairy industries were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind only the United States and China.

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