London: Switching away from meat to a plant-based diet is crucial to fighting climate change, according to a report by UN experts. The report adds that the West's high consumption of meat and dairy produce was fuelling global warming.
But scientists and officials stopped short of explicitly calling on everyone to become vegan or vegetarian. They said that more people could be fed using less land if individuals cut down on eating meat.
"We're not telling people to stop eating meat. In some places people have no other choice. But it's obvious that in the West we're eating far too much," said Prof Pete Smith, an environmental scientist from Aberdeen University, UK, reports BBC.
By 2050, dietary changes could free millions of square kilometres of land, and reduce global CO2 emissions by up to eight billion tonnes per year, the scientists estimate.
Currently, our food system is responsible for 25-30% of greenhouse gases. Given the predicted population increase, the report suggests that over 2 million square miles of forests – an area twice the size of India –would need to be converted to agriculture to keep up with demand.
This would have us going in the opposite direction that we need to go if we’re looking to keep global warming capped at 1.5°C. The report also warns that plans by some governments to grow trees and burn them to generate electricity will compete with food production unless carried out on a limited scale.
Earth's land surface, and the way it is used, forms the basis for human society and the global economy. The report has come months before negotiations at the UN's annual climate conference in Santiago, Chile in December.
The extensive analysis essentially urges governments to lay down policies to change the agricultural and forest use of land to tackle climate change, keeping in mind that the forests absorb about a third of the carbon emissions.