Meat and dairy companies are set to overtake oil firms as the world’s biggest polluters, a damning new report has claimed.
Researchers warned as much as 80 per cent of the allowable greenhouse gas budget could be taken up by the livestock sector by 2050.
The study authors said top meat and dairy firms are ‘majorly overlooked climate culprits’, and urged countries where they dominate to cut down production.
The five largest meat and dairy corporations are already responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell or BP, they added.
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Meat and dairy companies are set to overtake oil firms as the world’s biggest polluters, a damning new report claims. Its authors warned that as much as 80 per cent of the allowable greenhouse gas budget could be taken up by the livestock sector by 2050 (stock image)
Non-profits the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minnesota, and Grain, which is based in Barcelona, analysed 35 of the industry’s biggest companies.
They found that businesses fell ‘dangerously short’ when it came to reporting their emissions and targets.
Many failed to report emissions entirely or excluded supply chain figures, which account for around 80 to 90 per cent of total emissions.
‘There’s no other choice. Meat and dairy production in the countries where the top 35 companies dominate must be significantly reduced,’ said Devlin Kuyek, a researcher at Grain.
‘These corporations are pushing for trade agreements that will increase exports and emissions, and they are undermining real climate solutions like agroecology that benefit farmers, workers and consumers.’
For their report, researchers looked at the production of milk in litres, as well as beef and pork in tonnes reported by each company over the last year.
Researchers found in May that without meat and dairy consumption, global agricultural land would be reduced by 76 per cent. This equates to the size of the US, China, European Union and Australia combined, and there would still be enough food to feed the world
Researchers then multiplied these figures by meat and dairy emissions metrics approved by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
They found emissions from livestock are concentrated in a small number of countries, a trend mirrored by the top meat and dairy companies.
China, the US, the EU, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand are collectively responsible for over 60 per cent of global meat and dairy emissions.
This is around twice the rest of the world on a per capita basis.
WHY ARE CLIMATE MODELS DIFFICULT TO PREDICT?
The main problem with climate models is uncertainty.
In particular, something called the ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’ measure has been causing scientists a headache.
This is a highly influential measure that describes how much the planet will warm if carbon dioxide doubles and the Earth’s climate adjusts to the new state of the atmosphere.
Studies have found a wide range of possibilities for this key measure — somewhere between 1.5 and 4.5°C, with 3°C.
Most scientists try to constrain ECS by looking at historical warming events.
For the last 25 years, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ultimate authority on climate science, has settled on a ‘likely’ range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C (2.7°F to 8.1°F).
Warming less than 1°C is ‘extremely unlikely’ and more than 6°C is considered ‘very unlikely’, the panel has concluded.
However, some scientists dispute this figure.
The report’s authors said their findings were evidence of the far-reaching impacts of the livestock industry.
They stressed the importance of food systems that reflect the needs of farmers, consumers and the planet.
‘It’s time we realised over-consumption is directly linked to the subsidies we provide the industry to continue deforesting, depleting our natural resources and creating a major public health hazard through antibiotic overuse,’ said Shefali Sharma, director of IATP.
‘This report shows what a key role they play in creating climate change as well.’