Why is meat bad for the environment? We need to eat less, says Sir Patrick Vallance

Sir Patrick Vallance, UK Government’s chief scientific advisor, says reducing carbon emissions will require behavioral changes such as fewer flies and less meat.

In the run-up to the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow, Vallance insisted that limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C – as aimed at in the Paris Agreement – was still “achievable”, but that major changes were required immediately.

Among those changes, he said, was “a move away from the level of meat-eating we have seen in the past” – adding that we “must all also think about our flight habits”.

READ MORE: Why Do People Eat Less Meat?

Sir Patrick and other top scientists also issued a statement ahead of COP26 calling on world leaders to take more urgent steps to tackle the climate crisis.

Why is meat bad for the environment?

Not only meat consumption harms the environment, but meat production itself, which is widely regarded as an important driver of the climate crisis.

Meat farming in particular has been linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, loss of biodiversity, excessive water consumption, soil degradation and carbon emissions.

Large amounts of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are released during meat production, including through the destruction of forests and all associated transports.

Methane has an 87 times higher warming potential than CO2, but only stays in the atmosphere for about a tenth as long.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that meat and milk production is responsible for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Can Eating Less Meat Save the Planet?

Eating less meat will not stop climate change alone, but curbing meat production could certainly help us curb carbon emissions and cause less harm to the environment.

It is also unlikely that we can stop climate change by leaving it to individual consumer choices and that more drastic collective action will be required.

But many people are choosing to eat less meat on their own initiative, resulting in a sharp drop in meat consumption in the UK.

According to a study recently published in the Lancet Planetary Health, meat consumption in the UK has decreased by 17% over the past decade.

However, the government’s national food strategy for England states that if we are to meet our climate goals, we will have to eat 30% less meat in the next ten years.

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