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Future warming from global food consumption

Food consumption is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and evaluating its future warming impact is crucial for guiding climate mitigation action. However, the lack of granularity in reporting food item emissions and the widespread use of oversimplified metrics such as CO2 equivalents have complicated interpretation. We resolve these challenges by developing a global food consumption GHG emissions inventory separated by individual gas species and employing a reduced-complexity climate model, evaluating the associated future warming contribution and potential benefits from certain mitigation measures. We find that global food consumption alone could add nearly 1 °C to warming by 2100. Seventy five percent of this warming is driven by foods that are high sources of methane (ruminant meat, dairy and rice). However, over 55% of anticipated warming can be avoided from simultaneous improvements to production practices, the universal adoption of a healthy diet and consumer- and retail-level food waste reductions.

2023, Nature Climate Change

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