Many vegetarians have long argued that reducing meat consumption in the world would curb greenhouse gases emissions. Some papers and reports from different organizations have sustained this claim, but little has been done to implement it. Now new research renews the debate, stating that people in the developed world should cut meat consumption by 50%, in order to reduce emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), the most potent of the greenhouse gases.
The author of the study, Dr Eric Davidson, of the Woods Hole Research Centre, has based his conclusions on projected N2O emissions and a 2006 United Nations report. Along with people reducing their meat consumption, the food industry should implement practices that curb the emissions, according to Davidson.
‘To be comprehensive, I had to include scenarios that included meat consumption “business as usual” and some that included reduced meat consumption,’ Davidson said. ‘If we want to get to the most aggressive reduction – the one that actually stabilizes nitrous oxide – we have to use all of the above, including dietary changes, to get there.’
This diet may include meat, but in lower quantity. It is estimated that in 2030, in the developed countries, people will consume an average of 89 kg (196 pounds) of meat per person a year, while in the developing countries the consume will be of 37 kg (81 pounds). Most of these nitrous oxide emissions come from the crops to feed the animals.
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Davidson, E. (2012). Representative concentration pathways and mitigation scenarios for nitrous oxide Environmental Research Letters, 7 (2) DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024005