The food system is a major contributor to climate change and, without significant shifts in global diets, it is unlikely the world will achieve its targets under the Paris Agreement.
It is also a highly complex global system, which makes the task of determining precisely how people’s diets need to change difficult.
Aside from general principles, such as cutting meat and dairy consumption, other issues that need addressing include differences in food production emissions around the world and avoiding food waste.
As part of our week-long series examining food and climate change, Carbon Brief has asked a range of scientists, policy experts and other stakeholders about the role dietary changes will play in limiting global warming.
These are their responses, first as sample quotes, then, below, in full:
- Prof Maggie Gill: “There is no single answer on what you or I should change. It depends on where you live, where and how you buy your food, where it was produced, how it was processed and how far it has travelled.”
- Laura Wellesley: “Long story short: without dietary change, our hopes of averting global temperature rises of 2C or above become very slim indeed.”
- Chris Stark: “A change in diet away from the most carbon-intensive food, such as beef, lamb and dairy, could drive down agricultural emissions.”
- Prof Dave Reay: “Getting it right on food and climate change is not just about the carbon footprint of what is on our plates; for many millions of people it’s about whether there is any food on the plate at all.”
- Brent Kim: “The responsibility for adopting plant-forward diets falls most heavily on high-income countries.”
- Stuart Roberts: “Farmers will produce food to follow market trends and consumer demand. We know that people want to eat nutritious food that has been produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards.”
- Dr Marco Springmann: “Without targeted changes, food-related greenhouse gas emissions could increase by 90% by 2050.”
- Joanna Trewern: “This dietary transition won’t happen without action from businesses and government.”
- Sheril Kirshenbaum: “Changing what we eat can significantly help reach climate targets without requiring new innovation.”
- Dr Hannah Ritchie: “Reducing meat consumption is important, but substituting for lower footprint meats can also make a big difference.”
- Janet Ranganathan: “Limiting ruminant meat consumption…would also nearly eliminate the need for additional agricultural land expansion, helping to feed a growing world population without cutting down more forests.”
- Jen Leung: “On a per-capita basis, Asians consume far less meat than most Western countries…but the magnitude of 1.5 billion Chinese consumers and the rate of growth means curbing consumption trends can make a huge difference.”
- Dr Rosemary Ostfeld: “Eat the food you buy and don’t waste it – food waste is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.”
- Prof Sarah Bridle: “We need mandatory accredited labelling of foods to show their environmental impacts.”
- Dr Paul Behrens: “Shifting diets may be an opportunity for exploration rather than abstinence.”
- Dr Amos Tai: “Adopting a diet of ‘mostly plants’ would be not only simply a doctor’s recommendation to their patients, but also one of the most profound paths toward a sustainable planet.”
- Rob Percival: “An organic – or, more broadly, ‘agroecological’ – scenario would require that we eat differently and use our land differently.”