How Do Dietary Choices Influence the Energy-System Cost of Stabilizing the Climate?
Journal article, 2017

We investigate how different global dietary scenarios affect the constraints on, and costs of, transforming the energy system to reach a global temperature stabilization limit of 2 degrees C above the pre-industrial level. A global food and agriculture model, World Food Supply Model (WOFSUM), is used to create three dietary scenarios and to calculate the CH4 and N2O emissions resulting from their respective food-supply chains. The diets are: (i) a reference diet based on current trends; (ii) a diet with high (reference-level) meat consumption, but without ruminant products (i.e., no beef, lamb, or dairy, only pork and poultry); and (iii) a vegan diet. The estimated CH4 and N2O emissions from food production are fed into a coupled energy and climate-system optimization model to quantify the energy system implications of the different dietary scenarios, given a 2 degrees C target. The results indicate that a phase-out of ruminant products substantially increases the emission space for CO2 by about 250 GtC which reduces the necessary pace of the energy system transition and cuts the net present value energy-system mitigation costs by 25%, for staying below 2 degrees C. Importantly, the additional cost savings with a vegan diet--beyond those achieved with a phase-out of ruminant products--are marginal (only one additional percentage point). This means that a general reduction of meat consumption is a far less effective strategy for meeting the 2 degrees C target than a reduction of beef and dairy consumption.


food choices




mitigation options



Energy & Fuels


dietary changes

climate change mitigation


energy system modelling


David Bryngelsson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Fredrik Hedenus

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Daniel Johansson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Christian Azar

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Stefan Wirsenius

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory


1996-1073 (ISSN) 19961073 (eISSN)

Vol. 10 2 182

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance


Subject Categories


Energy Systems



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