Quantcast

One-Third of Global Food Production Never Finds Its Way Onto Our Plate

Climate

By Nicole Mormann

It's easy not to think about food waste when your rotting tomatoes and days-old casserole dishes are hidden away in the back of the refrigerator—out of sight, out of mind. But when it comes time to clean it out, you have to face a lot of waste food, money and the resources that took to produce it. While food waste has made a rapid rise in terms of public awareness recently, new research suggests that the future effect could end up accelerating climate change at a worrisome rate in coming years.

While food waste has made a rapid rise in terms of public awareness recently, now new research suggests that the future effect could end up accelerating climate change at a worrisome rate in coming years.

According to a study released Thursday by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, food waste could account for about a tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20 percent of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions in 2010," Prajal Pradhan, one of the study's authors, said in a statement. “Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse-gas emissions and help mitigate climate change."

Around the world, about one-third of all food that's produced is either lost or wasted every year. While farmers and grocery stores throw out tons of bruised fruits and misshapen vegetables that don't meet the industry's strict cosmetic standards, consumers are the culprits for wasting the most food. American households toss about $144 billion worth of produce and other items annually. In the UK, a study found that people were throwing out twice as much food as they originally thought—about $85 worth, to be exact.

The majority of food waste ends up in landfills where it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

In the U.S., 97 percent of food waste goes to landfills. But the climate change impacts of food don't end at the dump—the researchers note that the agricultural industry as a whole is contributing to a warming planet.

“Agricultural production in general produces emissions, for example, by land conversion or overuse of fertilizer," Jurgen Kropp, lead author of the study, told The Christian Science Monitor in an emailed statement. The study details that as the demand for food grows, especially in wealthier countries, overproduction is likely to emit greater amounts of greenhouse gases.

The study also warns that growing economies like China and India could significantly increase the level of greenhouse gas emissions from food waste overtime as welfare increases and diets start moving toward animal-based products. The World Health Organization predicts that meat production will increase to 376 millions tons by 2030, up from 318 million tons in 2015. With rich countries already wasting millions of tons of food, these developments could potentially undermine efforts to combat climate change.

However, by adopting better food management systems, researchers say that up to 14 percent of all agricultural emissions in 2050 could be avoided.

“Emissions related to discarded food are just the tip of the iceberg,“ Pradhan said. “Changing individual behavior could be one key towards mitigating the climate crisis."

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

5 Island Nations That Could Completely Dry Up This Month

Climate Change + Population Growth + Economic Expansion = More Severe Flooding

5 Inconvenient Truths You Need to Know Before Eating Lunch

Can Cuba Supply America's Growing Appetite for Organic Food?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signs the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule on June 19, replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that would have reduced coal-fired plant carbon emissions. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Twitter

By Elliott Negin

On July 8, President Trump hosted a White House event to unabashedly tout his truly abysmal environmental record. The following day, coincidentally, marked the one-year anniversary of Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), first as acting administrator and then as administrator after the Senate confirmed him in late February.

Read More Show Less
A timber sale in the Kaibab National Forest. Dyan Bone / Forest Service / Southwestern Region / Kaibab National Forest

By Tara Lohan

If you're a lover of wilderness, wildlife, the American West and the public lands on which they all depend, then journalist Christopher Ketcham's new book is required — if depressing — reading.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Somalians fight against hunger and lack of water due to drought as Turkish Ambassador to Somalia, Olgan Bekar (not seen) visits the a camp near the Mogadishu's rural side in Somalia on March 25, 2017. Sadak Mohamed / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

World hunger is on the rise for the third consecutive year after decades of decline, a new United Nations (UN) report says. The climate crisis ranks alongside conflict as the top cause of food shortages that force more than 821 million people worldwide to experience chronic hunger. That number includes more than 150 million children whose growth is stunted due to a lack of food.

Read More Show Less
Eduardo Velev cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave on July 1, 2018 in Philadelphia. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

By Adrienne L. Hollis

Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Senator Graham returns after playing a round of golf with Trump on Oct. 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ron Sachs – Pool / Getty Images

Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.

Read More Show Less
A small Bermuda cedar tree sits atop a rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. todaycouldbe / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Marlene Cimons

Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.

Read More Show Less
krisanapong detraphiphat / Moment / Getty Images

By Grace Francese

You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.

Read More Show Less