Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

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?

Sunrise over planet Earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. Elen11 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On Thursday, April 22, the world will celebrate Earth Day, the largest non-religious holiday on the globe.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
NASA has teamed up with non-profit Carbon Mapper to help pinpoint greenhouse gas sources. aapsky / Getty Images

NASA is teaming up with an innovative non-profit to hunt for greenhouse gas super-emitters responsible for the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Trending
schnuddel / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Jenna McGuire

Commonly used herbicides across the U.S. contain highly toxic undisclosed "inert" ingredients that are lethal to bumblebees, according to a new study published Friday in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Read More Show Less
A warming climate can lead to lake stratification, including toxic algal blooms. UpdogDesigns / Getty Images

By Ayesha Tandon

New research shows that lake "stratification periods" – a seasonal separation of water into layers – will last longer in a warmer climate.

Read More Show Less
A view of Lake Powell from Romana Mesa, Utah, on Sept. 8, 2018. DEA / S. AMANTINI / Contributor / Getty Images

By Robert Glennon

Interstate water disputes are as American as apple pie. States often think a neighboring state is using more than its fair share from a river, lake or aquifer that crosses borders.

Read More Show Less