The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
One-Third of Global Food Production Never Finds Its Way Onto Our Plate
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.
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
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.
When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.
Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.
By Andrea Germanos
Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.
By Tara Lohan
It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.
Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.