The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets
Journal article, 2014

For agriculture, there are three major options for mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: 1) productivity improvements, particularly in the livestock sector; 2) dedicated technical mitigation measures; and 3) human dietary changes. The aim of the paper is to estimate long-term agricultural GHG emissions, under different mitigation scenarios, and to relate them to the emissions space compatible with the 2°C temperature target. Our estimates include emissions up to 2070 from agricultural soils, manure management, enteric fermentation and paddy rice fields, and are based on IPCC Tier 2 methodology. We find that baseline agricultural CO2-equivalent emissions (using Global Warming Potentials with a 100 year time horizon) will be approximately 13 Gton CO(2)eq/year in 2070, compared to 7.1 Gton CO(2)eq/year 2000. However, if faster growth in livestock productivity is combined with dedicated technical mitigation measures, emissions may be kept to 7.7 Gton CO(2)eq/year in 2070. If structural changes in human diets are included, emissions may be reduced further, to 3-5 Gton CO(2)eq/year in 2070. The total annual emissions for meeting the 2°C target with a chance above 50 % is in the order of 13 Gton CO(2)eq/year or less in 2070, for all sectors combined. We conclude that reduced ruminant meat and dairy consumption will be indispensable for reaching the 2°C target with a high probability, unless unprecedented advances in technology take place.


Fredrik Hedenus

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Stefan Wirsenius

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Daniel Johansson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Climatic Change

0165-0009 (ISSN) 1573-1480 (eISSN)

Vol. 124 1-2 79-91

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences



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