SEATTLE—According to a study conducted by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could be a result of food waste. In fact, by 2050, food waste could account for more than a tenth of greenhouse gas emissions. The study, published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal, also emphasized the pressure placed on the climate from growing economies and populations.
Prajal Pradhan (co-author of the study) sourced agriculture as a fundamental reason for climate change. Consequently, curbing food waste will help lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the effects of climate change.
Consumers waste 30 percent of the food produced worldwide. This amount will also continue to increase significantly as emerging countries like China and India develop more Westernized food habits. An article in The Guardian quoted researchers who claimed that richer countries over-consume or discard food. Simply changing these behaviors could lessen climate change.
The study’s other co-author, PIK’s Head of Climate Change and Development Jürgen Kropp, suggested a primary focus on reducing food waste. This reduction would consequently help curb emissions. Despite the power of his statement, governments still haven’t adopted this strategy.
Reducing food waste also offers an opportunity to reduce global food insecurity. In an article by The Washington Post, the UN approximates that about 800 million individuals globally suffer from food insecurity. Consequently, the global surplus could feed an additional 1.4 billion people.
The same report shows that agricultural emissions associated with food surpluses more than quadrupled between 1965 and 2010. These emissions do not even include those associated with energy use.
Pradhan explained to The Washington Post that food waste-related emissions will multiply in the next few decades. He also expects there will be an increased consumption of meat on a global scale. This is especially troublesome because meat requires immense proportions of energy to produce, especially when compared to non-meat food production.
Emily Broad Leib, an assistant clinical professor of Food Law and Policy at Harvard Law School, said that the choices consumers make are important. She also emphasized the importance of the role of consumers who avoid wasting food.
Pradhan noted that the findings advance a beneficial foundation and will be helpful information that the U.N. can use in advancing the sustainability goal of halving food waste by 2030.
– Heidi Grossman