Indonesia's forest fires have made headlines globally over the past few weeks. This year's forest fires have affected millions of people. Schools have closed in some areas due to unsafe levels of air pollution, while many people are suffering from respiratory illnesses. The haze has spread so far as to affect Singapore and Malaysia.
1. 2019's fires are the worst since 2015.<p><a href="https://fires.globalforestwatch.org/report/index.html#aoitype=GLOBAL&reporttype=globalcountryreport&country=Indonesia&dates=fYear-2019!fMonth-1!fDay-1!tYear-2019!tMonth-9!tDay-30" target="_blank">According to data displayed on Global Forest Watch (GFW) Fires</a>, there have been 66,000 fire alerts from January through the end of September. While this is much lower than fire levels in 2015 — which saw more than 110,000 alerts at the end of September — it far exceeds forest fires levels in 2016, 2017 and 2018.<span></span><br></p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTIyMTk5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NDc4ODI5OX0.Tb44wxvaGDtjvg8ep9dshU05_rU2Cx4FLru69W_j400/img.png?width=980" id="8fcc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6264ba49cee5d735604d750532617f1d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
2. This year’s fires jeopardize Indonesia’s progress in reducing deforestation.<p>Of the countries historically most responsible for the world's deforestation, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/indonesia" rel="noopener noreferrer">Indonesia</a> is the only one that's actually reduced <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/04/world-lost-belgium-sized-area-primary-rainforests-last-year" target="_blank">its deforestation rate in recent years</a>. This year's fires season could derail this promising trend.<br></p><p>According to annual tree cover loss data on Global Forest Watch, Indonesia's deforestation rate declined significantly <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/04/world-lost-belgium-sized-area-primary-rainforests-last-year" target="_blank">in 2017 and 2018, after a record-high in 2016</a>. National policies like the forest moratorium and peatland restoration plan played a big role, but these years also benefited from wetter conditions associated with the La Niña weather pattern. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/09/18/wildfires-indonesia-have-ravaged-acres-palm-oil-farmers-are-blame/" target="_blank">While farmers set fires every year to clear land</a>, the blazes are less likely to spread or rage out of control during wet years than they are during dry years. With the return of El Niño this year and its warmer, drier conditions, it's unclear if Indonesia will see further declines in deforestation this year. We'll need to wait until Global Forest Watch's 2019 tree cover loss data is available to measure fires' full impact on the country's forests.</p>
3. 42% of fires have occurred in peatlands.<p><a href="https://fires.globalforestwatch.org/report/index.html#aoitype=GLOBAL&reporttype=globalcountryreport&country=Indonesia&dates=fYear-2019!fMonth-1!fDay-1!tYear-2019!tMonth-9!tDay-30" target="_blank">Data on GFW Fires</a> shows that 42% of fire alerts detected in Indonesia this year occurred in peatlands, just like in 2015 where <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/09/after-record-breaking-fires-can-indonesias-new-policies-turn-down-heat" target="_blank">40% of fires were observed</a> on peatland.<br></p><p>Fires on carbon-rich peatlands are notoriously difficult to extinguish. Organic matter inside peat makes fires bigger and generates more haze. Burning peatland is also problematic for the climate — <a href="https://en.pantaugambut.id/peatland-101/the-important-role-of-peatlands/managing-climate-change" target="_blank">draining one hectare</a> of tropical peatland will produce <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/destruction-tropical-peatland-overlooked-source-emissions" target="_blank">an average of 55 metric tons</a> of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of burning more than 6,000 gallons of gas.</p>
- Indonesia's Deforestation Dropped 60 Percent in 2017 - EcoWatch ›
- Indonesia Forest-Clearing Ban Criticized as 'Government Propaganda' ›
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The UN set a global goal to cut food loss and waste in half by 2030. Alarming figures show just how big of a challenge remains.
10 Ways to Scale Action<p>To accelerate momentum, here are 10 interventions that can rapidly spur deployment of a Target Measure Act approach and actor-specific actions.</p><h4>1. Develop national strategies for food loss and waste reduction.</h4><p>Only a handful of nations have established strategies to reduce food loss and waste, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ethiopia. National strategies help align public policies, private sector actions, farmer practices and consumer behavior toward a shared goal, so it's critical that more nations create strategies to halve food loss and waste.</p><h4>2. Create national public-private partnerships.</h4><p>Reducing food loss and waste requires action across the entire food supply chain as well as supportive public policies. No single institution can drive a 50% economy-wide reduction on its own. Public-private partnerships have an emerging track record, having launched in countries like the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States. In the UK, the Courtauld Commitment has been signed by 53 retailers, who have committed to measure and reduce food waste. If such partnerships emerged in the following countries, then 20 of the world's largest agriculture exporters would be covered, representing 45 percent of the world's population: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Thailand and Turkey.</p>
Thailand farmer rows boat laden with fruit and vegetables to market.
WRI / Flickr<h4><br>3. Launch a "10x20x30" supply chain initiative.</h4><p>Food losses often occur during production and, especially in low-income countries, during handling and storage. Launching a private sector campaign where at least 10 of the largest food and agriculture companies commit to act and engage their 20 largest suppliers to do the same by 2030 (hence, 10x20x30) could have a big impact. This approach leverages the relative market concentration and power of a few companies to catalyze change across the supply chain and geographies. This intervention follows a model set by retail-giant Tesco, which has secured the commitment of 27 of its major suppliers to set targets, measure progress and act.</p><h4>4. Reduce smallholder losses.</h4><p>If we're to halve food losses, efforts to assist smallholders with productivity and efficiency need a big boost---especially in reaching smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, regions that lose an estimated 26% of their food during harvesting, handling and storage. Approaches include training farmers in reducing losses, creating access to markets for smallholders and improving storage solutions. For example, as part of The Rockefeller Foundation's YieldWise initiative, farmers growing tomatoes in Nigeria were trained in improved agronomic practices and access to aggregation centers, which reduced transport time to market. Following these interventions, losses were reduced by 54%.</p><h4>5. Launch a "decade of storage solutions."</h4><p>What if the 2020s became a decade of making food storage technologies ubiquitous, affordable and climate-friendly? Doing so would tackle a huge hotspot of food loss and waste in low-income countries, helping ensure more food makes it safely to market. Innovations in solar-powered coolers and "lease-to-own" financing arrangements for villages can help.</p><h4>6. Shift consumer social norms.</h4><p>Behavioral science tells us that increased knowledge of an issue alone does not necessarily translate into changed behavior. What successful initiatives like the UK's 'Love Food, Hate Waste' campaign have shown is that you must give people information and make it easy for them to change their behavior. That's why 'Love Food, Hate Waste' ran advertisements to raise awareness and worked with retailers to get rid of offers such as 'buy one get one free' that encourage over-buying as well as to print food storage information on food packaging, making it easier for people to waste less food. What's needed is for norms in high-income countries and cities everywhere to shift so that wasting food becomes unacceptable.</p><h4>7. Go after emissions reductions.</h4><p>Reducing food loss and waste is an underappreciated greenhouse gas mitigation strategy. By tackling food loss and waste from emissions-intensive <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/beef" target="_self">beef</a>, dairy and rice, these food sectors can reduce their impact on <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate</a>. Another strategy is for countries to add food loss and waste reduction to their national climate plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). To date, fewer than a dozen countries have included food loss and waste reduction in their NDCs.</p><h4>8. Scale up financing.</h4><p>Many of the promising solutions to reduce food loss and waste need an influx in financing to take off. In 2016, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the $130 million YieldWise initiative to tackle food losses in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, and food waste in North America and Europe. In 2019, the World Bank launched a $300 million Sustainable Development Bond focused on food loss and waste reduction. More of such investments are needed by a wider suite of financiers, ranging from grants and blended finance to venture capital and commercial investments.</p><h4>9. Overcome the data deficit.</h4><p>Without more and better data to understand the scale and scope of the food loss and waste challenge, we risk not being able to identify hotspots, hone reduction strategies and monitor progress. Over the next five years, the world needs a concentrated push to measure the quantity of food loss and waste in a more consistent way so that data is comparable.</p><h4>10. Advance the research agenda.</h4><p>Public and private research institutions have an important role, helping answer questions that will allow the world to refine strategies for reducing food loss and waste. These are questions like: Which solutions are showing the best return on investment? What technologies are most promising? What can behavioral science tell us about how to shift social norms when it comes to food waste? And what types of infrastructure do farmers in low-income countries need to reduce on-farm and near-farm losses? </p>
There Are Enormous Benefits to Reducing Food Loss and Waste<p>Successfully halving food loss and waste would bring enormous benefits. It would close the gap between food needed in 2050 and food available in 2010 by more than 20 percent. It would avoid the need to convert an area the size of Argentina into agricultural land. And it would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 gigatons per year by 2050, an amount more than the current energy and industry related emissions of Japan.</p><p>The size of the prize is huge. So, too, must be the action to seize it.</p>
- Food Waste Set to Increase by 33 Percent Within 10 Years - EcoWatch ›
- How to Make a Change for Stop Food Waste Day - EcoWatch ›
- Harnessing Food Waste to Empower Communities in Brazil - EcoWatch ›
More and more Americans are retrofitting their bathrooms with high-end bidets, allowing them to enjoy cleanliness and hygiene without creating as much paper waste. Not all bidets are created equal, however, and before deciding on a particular brand, it's important to do your homework. Take a look at our comprehensive Toto bidet review, and our reviews of Tushy and Omigo, to learn more about all of their options.
Toto USA<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT500B-01-Piedmont-Vertical/dp/B00084P3GO/ref=sr_1_3?crid=ZG6AGN0U9VQL&dchild=1&keywords=toto+piedmont+bidet&qid=1613591898&sprefix=toto+piedmo%2Caps%2C188&sr=8-3" target="_blank">Toto's Piedmont bidet</a> offers an elegant, classic design, and it also comes with built-in safeguards that prevent it from ever overflowing. It is available in several color options, and will look good with any contemporary bathroom design.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> This is the most affordable standalone bidet in Toto's catalog. This bidet is a good option if you are remodeling your bathroom or are building a home and want to save water and paper waste from the start. Priced starting at $533, you can find it through other retailers for around $280.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT930B-01-Vertical-Cotton/dp/B0015IVUOQ/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=toto%2Blloyd%2Bbidet&qid=1613592001&sr=8-2&th=1" target="_blank">Lloyd bidet</a> has a much bolder, "skirted" design, but it also shares the Piedmont's flushing rim and integral overflow features, which keep you from ever experiencing spillage.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>This is a fancier product with a more striking appearance, and is mainly suited for a larger, more formal design. It retails for a slightly higher price point: The Lloyd model starts at $780 in total, but you can find it for $526 through other retailers.</p>
Toto USA<p>The company's flagship standalone bidet is known as the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT784B-01-Clayton-Vertical/dp/B0018L9JUC/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=toto+clayton+bidet&qid=1613592108&sr=8-2" target="_blank">Clayton</a>. It includes the same overflow safeguards as the other two, and of course, each of these products is backed by Toto's longstanding commitment to excellent craftsmanship.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>This is the most traditional in its visual style, and, with a number of colors to choose from, it will look great in almost any bathroom design. The Clayton starts at $734, but is available through other retailers for around $426.</p>
Toto USA<p>This electronic smart bidet seat fits onto your existing toilet bowl and offers a number of comfort features, including a heated seat, automatic air deodorizer, adjustable warm water, warm air dryer, self-cleaning wand, and a wireless remote control.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> We chose the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UCIOX2Q/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&aaxitk=-XjvJQOmffOcAmiCOZvtAA&hsa_cr_id=7413316040901&pd_rd_plhdr=t&pd_rd_r=0e0e7f3d-0baf-4977-85d3-663f618a76d8&pd_rd_w=Yi3yF&pd_rd_wg=LUFHB&ref_=sbx_be_s_sparkle_lsi3d_asin_1_img" target="_blank">Toto C200</a> as the overall best bidet in <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/best-bidet-toilet-seats-2650502928.html" target="_self">our review</a> of top brands. In addition to the features mentioned, its dual action oscillating and pulsating spray and pre-mist function provide a comfortable and sanitary clean.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-SW3046-01-Electronic-Contemporary/dp/B078GTKSXK/ref=sr_1_2?crid=15NGPC9YFANKH&dchild=1&keywords=toto+s500e&qid=1613960063&sprefix=toto+s500e%2Caps%2C171&sr=8-2" target="_blank">Toto Washlet S500e</a> bidet seat includes the features found in the C200, plus instantaneous water heating, front and rear wash functions, two-user preset memory, and the company's <a href="https://www.totousa.com/technologies/ewater" target="_blank">EWATER+ technology</a>. This system uses electrolyzed water to keep the wand and toilet bowl clean.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> This high-end Toto electric bidet seat can help you reduce water and toilet paper use, and it can help reduce the need for chemical cleaning products with its EWATER+ technology.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-SW2014-01-Electronic-SoftClose/dp/B0165UFOGS/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=30E9Y1LAN9ZRW&dchild=1&keywords=toto+washlet+a100+elongated+bidet+toilet+seat&qid=1613589664&sprefix=toto+washlet+a100%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFBR1FMUTdJR1hXNUEmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTAyNjIwOTkxUE1EWk5CQjg2QTZPJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA0NDc1MzExSk1UMk5CQzJYVUhVJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==" target="_blank">A100</a> is an entry-level Washlet bidet attachment, but still offers numerous comfort features. It includes a heated seat with temperature control, aerated warm water with a dual action spray, and an attached arm control panel.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>One of the most affordable Toto bidet options, it still lets you adjust the water temperature and pressure settings, and features rear and front cleaning functionality for a feminine wash.</p>
By Aleksandra Arcipowska, Emily Mangan, You Lyu and Richard Waite
Agriculture provides a livelihood for billions of people every day and feeds all of us. Yet food production has significant impacts on the environment through deforestation and water pollution. It's also a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.
1. What causes agricultural emissions?<p>The majority of agricultural production emissions come from <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/04/6-pressing-questions-about-beef-and-climate-change-answered" target="_blank">raising livestock</a>. More than <a href="https://climatenexus.org/climate-issues/food/animal-agricultures-impact-on-climate-change/" target="_blank">70 billion animals are raised annually</a> for human consumption. The biggest single source is methane from cow burps and manure. Enteric fermentation—a natural digestive process that occurs in ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep and goats—<a href="http://www.ccacoalition.org/en/activity/enteric-fermentation" target="_blank">accounts for about 40% of agricultural production emissions</a> in the past 20 years.</p><p>Manure left on pasture also causes agricultural emissions. It emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with a much stronger global warming impact per ton than carbon dioxide. These two processes from animal agriculture produce more than half of total agricultural production emissions. Rice cultivation and synthetic fertilizers are also major sources, each contributing more than 10% of agricultural production emissions. </p><p>While we focus on agricultural production emissions in this blog post, it's important to remember that agriculture is also a leading driver of land-use change (for example through the conversion of forests to croplands or pasture). <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/how-sustainably-feed-10-billion-people-2050-21-charts" target="_blank">Recent WRI research</a> estimated that agriculture and land-use change collectively accounted for nearly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.</p>
2. What’s agriculture’s role in global and national emissions?<p>Emissions from agricultural production currently account for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions and have risen 14% since 2000.</p><p>In 24 countries around the world, agriculture is the top source of emissions.</p>
3. Which countries are responsible for the most agricultural production emissions?<p>In the 20-year period from 1996-2016, China was responsible for the most emissions from agricultural production, followed by India, Brazil and the United States. Together, these top four agricultural emitters were responsible for 37% of global agricultural production emissions.</p><p>Since 2000, China and India's agricultural production emissions have increased by 16% and 14%, respectively (see: figure 3). In terms of per capita agricultural emissions, the top three countries are Australia, Argentina and Brazil.</p>
4. What will agricultural emissions look like in the future?<p>Agriculture will likely continue to be a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions in both developed and developing countries. </p><p>With little to no climate action in the agriculture sector, greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production could increase 58% by 2050. <a href="http://www.wri.org/sustfoodfuture" target="_blank">WRI research</a> also showed that when factoring in land-use change, agricultural emissions under a business-as-usual scenario could eat up 70% or more of the world's "carbon budget," the amount of emissions the world can release by 2050 while still limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C. Under a more ambitious mitigation <a href="https://www.climatewatchdata.org/pathways/scenarios/198" target="_blank">scenario called RCP2.6</a>, emissions from the agricultural sector will still increase, but only by 6% (compared to 2000).</p><p>WRI also analyzed an <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/how-sustainably-feed-10-billion-people-2050-21-charts" target="_blank">even more ambitious "breakthrough technologies" scenario</a>—with changes in technology, policies and practices from farm to plate—that would reduce agricultural production emissions by 40% between 2010 and 2050 and increase carbon removal from the atmosphere with vast amounts of reforestation. Such measures would require enormous amounts of investment and effort, but they are necessary for keeping warming to 1.5 degrees C, the limit scientists say is necessary for preventing some of the worst impacts of climate change.</p>
5. What are countries doing to reduce agricultural emissions?<p>Emissions from agricultural production can be addressed by improving production and consumption patterns. WRI's recent research points to a <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/how-sustainably-feed-10-billion-people-2050-21-charts" target="_blank">five-course "menu of solutions"</a> to feed 10 billion people by 2050 while reducing agricultural emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.</p><p>On the production side, boosting yields of crops and livestock through sustainable intensification can reduce emissions per unit of food produced and greatly relieve pressure on the world's remaining forests. A suite of technological innovations, including feed additives that reduce enteric fermentation, "nitrification inhibitors" that reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer, and lower-emissions rice varieties could all reduce emissions while maintaining yields. </p><p>Consumption can be more efficient by reducing food loss and waste and by shifting diets in wealthier countries away from emissions-intensive products like beef and toward plant-based foods. </p><p>This movement has already begun, but it needs to accelerate. <a href="https://www.climatewatchdata.org/pathways/scenarios/198" target="_blank">Climate Watch</a> allows users to explore all countries' climate commitments, or NDCs, and see which include action in agriculture. Out of 197 Parties to the Paris Agreement, 75 have committed to mitigation actions and 116 have committed to adaptation actions within the agricultural sector. Top emitting countries like <a href="https://www.climatewatchdata.org/ndcs/compare/adaptation?locations=USA%2CIND%2CCHN&section=sectoral_adaptation_actions" target="_blank">China and India</a> have submitted sector-specific adaptation plans that cover areas including food security, irrigation, land and soil management, and agroforestry. Other countries aim to <a href="https://wriorg.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/leading-on-ambition.pdf?_ga=2.99988446.1594436982.1551301241-1903365296.1527016396" target="_blank">reduce short-lived climate pollutants</a> like methane through their NDCs. <a href="https://www.climatewatchdata.org/ndcs/country/JPN" target="_blank">Japan</a>, for example, has proposed measures to reduce methane emissions from agricultural soils and rice paddies.</p>
By Richard Waite, Tim Searchinger and Janet Ranganathan
Beef and climate change are in the news these days, from cows' alleged high-methane farts (fact check: they're actually mostly high-methane burps) to comparisons with cars and airplanes (fact check: the world needs to reduce emissions from fossil fuels and agriculture to sufficiently rein in global warming). And as with so many things in the public sphere lately, it's easy for the conversation to get polarized. Animal-based foods are nutritious and especially important to livelihoods and diets in developing countries, but they are also inefficient resource users. Beef production is becoming more efficient, but forests are still being cut down for new pasture. People say they want to eat more plants, but meat consumption is still rising.
1. How does beef production cause greenhouse gas emissions?<p><strong><em>The short answer:</em></strong> Through the agricultural production process and through land-use change.</p><p><strong><em>The longer explanation:</em></strong> Cows and other ruminant animals (like goats and sheep) emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as they digest grasses and plants. This process is called "enteric fermentation," and it's the origin of cows' burps. Methane is also emitted from manure, and nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, is emitted from ruminant wastes on pastures and chemical fertilizers used on crops produced for cattle feed.</p><p>More indirectly but also importantly, rising beef production requires increasing quantities of land. New pastureland is often created by cutting down trees, which releases carbon dioxide stored in forests.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/i3437e/i3437e00.htm" target="_blank">2013 study</a> by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that total annual emissions from animal agriculture (production emissions plus land-use change) were about 14.5 percent of all human emissions, of which beef contributed 41 percent. That means emissions from beef production are roughly on par with those of India. Because FAO only modestly accounted for land-use-change emissions, this is a conservative estimate.</p><p>Beef-related emissions are also projected to grow. Building from an FAO projection, we estimated that global demand for beef and other ruminant meats could grow by 88 percent between 2010 and 2050, putting enormous pressure on forests, biodiversity and the climate. Even after accounting for continued improvements in beef production efficiency, pastureland could still expand by roughly 400 million hectares, an area of land larger than the size of India, to meet growing demand. The resulting deforestation could increase global emissions enough to put the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 degrees F) <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/10/we-cant-limit-global-warming-15c-without-changing-diets" target="_blank">out of reach</a>.</p>
2. Is beef more resource-intensive than other foods?<p><strong><em>The short answer:</em></strong> Yes.</p><p><strong><em>The longer explanation:</em></strong> Ruminant animals have <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223885624_Efficiencies_and_biomass_appropriation_of_food_commodities_on_global_and_regional_levels" target="_blank">lower growth and reproduction rates</a> than pigs and poultry, so they require a higher amount of feed per unit of meat produced. Animal feed requires land to grow, which has a carbon cost associated with it, as we discuss below. All told, beef is more resource-intensive to produce than most other kinds of meat, and animal-based foods overall are more resource-intensive than plant-based foods. Beef requires <a href="http://www.wri.org/shiftingdiets" target="_blank">20 times more land and emits 20 times more GHG emissions</a> per gram of edible protein than common plant proteins, such as beans. And while the majority of the world's grasslands cannot grow crops or trees, such "native grasslands" are already heavily used for livestock production, meaning additional beef demand will likely increase pressure on forests.</p>
3. Why are some people saying beef production is only a small contributor to emissions?<p><strong><em>The short answer:</em></strong> Such estimates commonly leave out land-use impacts, such as cutting down forests to establish new pastureland.</p><p><strong><em>The longer explanation:</em></strong> There are a lot of statistics out there that account for emissions from beef production but not from associated land-use change. For example, here are three common U.S. estimates we hear:</p><ul> <li>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/draft-inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks-1990-2017" target="_blank">estimated</a> total U.S. agricultural emissions in 2017 at only 8 percent of total U.S. emissions;</li></ul><ul> <li>A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X18305675" target="_blank">2019 study</a> in Agricultural Systems estimated emissions from beef production at only 3 percent of total U.S. emissions; and</li></ul><ul><li>A <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/114/48/E10301" target="_blank">2017 study</a> published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that removing all animals from U.S. agriculture would reduce U.S. emissions by only 3 percent.</li></ul><p>While all of these estimates account for emissions from U.S. agricultural production, they leave out a crucial element: emissions associated with devoting land to agriculture. An acre of land devoted to food production is often an acre that could store far more carbon if allowed to grow forest or its native vegetation. And when considering the emissions associated with domestic beef production, you can't just look within national borders, especially since global beef demand is on the rise. Because food is a global commodity, what is consumed in one country can drive land use impacts and emissions in another. An increase in U.S. beef consumption, for example, can result in deforestation to make way for pastureland in Latin America. Conversely, a decrease in U.S. beef consumption can avoid deforestation (and land-use-change emissions) abroad.</p><p>When these land-use effects of beef production are accounted for, <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/05/insider-responding-9-common-questions-about-shifting-diets-sustainable-food-future" target="_blank">we found</a> that the GHG impacts associated with the average American-style diet actually come close to per capita U.S. energy-related emissions. A <a href="https://www.wri.org/carbon-benefits-index" target="_blank">related analysis</a> found that the average European's diet-related emissions, when accounting for land-use impacts, are similar to the per capita emissions typically assigned to each European's consumption of all goods and services, including energy.</p>
4. Can beef be produced more sustainably?<p><strong><em>The short answer:</em></strong> Yes, although beef will always be resource-intensive to produce.</p><p><strong><em>The longer explanation:</em></strong> The emissions intensity of beef production varies widely across the world, and improvements in the efficiency of livestock production can greatly reduce land use and emissions per pound of meat. Improving feed quality and veterinary care, raising improved animal breeds that convert feed into meat and milk more efficiently, and using improved management practices like rotational grazing can boost productivity and soil health while reducing emissions. Boosting productivity, in turn, can take pressure off tropical forests by reducing the need for more pastureland.</p><p>Examples of such improved practices abound. For example, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/13/702908768/fighting-global-warming-requires-changes-in-how-cows-are-fed" target="_blank">some beef production in Colombia</a> integrates trees and grasses onto pasturelands, helping the land produce a higher quantity and quality of feed. This can enable farmers to quadruple the number of cows per acre while greatly reducing methane emissions per pound of meat, as the cows grow more quickly. A <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-012-0640-0" target="_blank">study of dairy farms in Kenya</a> found that supplementing typical cattle diets with high-quality feeds like napier grass and high-protein Calliandra shrubs — which can lead to faster cattle growth and greater milk production — could reduce methane emissions per liter of milk by 8–60 percent.</p>
5. Do we all need to stop eating beef in order to curb climate change?<p><strong><em>The short answer:</em></strong> No.</p><p><strong><em>The longer explanation:</em></strong> Reining in climate change won't require everyone to become vegetarian or vegan, or even to stop eating beef. If ruminant meat consumption in high-consuming countries declined to about 50 calories a day or 1.5 burgers per person per week — about half of current U.S. levels and 25 percent below current European levels, but still well above the national average for most countries — it would nearly eliminate the need for additional agricultural expansion (and associated deforestation), even in a world with 10 billion people.</p><p>Diets are already shifting away from beef in some places. Per capita beef consumption has already <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/01/2018-will-see-high-meat-consumption-us-american-diet-shifting" target="_blank">fallen by one-third</a> in the United States since the 1970s. <a href="https://www.fooddive.com/news/alternative-proteins-could-become-a-food-staple-for-more-us-consumers/550738/" target="_blank">Plant-based burgers</a> and <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/02/flavor-packed-burger-saves-many-emissions-taking-2-million-cars-road" target="_blank">blended meat-plant alternatives</a> are <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/04/01/meat-politics-226342" target="_blank">increasingly competing</a> with conventional meat products on important attributes like taste, price and convenience. The market for plant-based alternatives is <a href="https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/meat-substitutes.asp" target="_blank">growing at a high rate</a>, albeit from a low baseline.</p><p>There are also other compelling reasons for people to shift toward plant-based foods. <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31788-4/fulltext" target="_blank">Some studies</a> have shown that red meat consumption is associated with increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and colorectal cancer, and that diets higher in healthy plant-based foods (such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes) are associated with lower risks. In high-income regions like North America and Europe, people also <a href="http://www.wri.org/shiftingdiets" target="_blank">consume more protein than they need</a> to meet their dietary requirements.</p>
6. Would eating less beef be bad for jobs in the food and agriculture sector?<p><strong><em>The short answer:</em></strong> Not necessarily.</p><p><strong><em>The longer explanation:</em></strong> Given projected future growth in meat demand across the developing world, even if people in higher-income countries eat less beef, the global market for beef will likely continue to grow in the coming decades. The scenario in the chart above leads to a 32 percent growth in global ruminant meat consumption between 2010 and 2050, versus 88 percent growth under business-as-usual. In the U.S., despite declining per capita beef consumption, total beef production <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/01/2018-will-see-high-meat-consumption-us-american-diet-shifting" target="_blank">has held steady</a> since the 1970s. Burgeoning demand in emerging markets like China will lead to more export opportunities in leading beef-producing countries, although building such markets <a href="https://www.drovers.com/article/beef-consumption-and-growing-beef-imports-china" target="_blank">takes time</a>.</p><p>In addition, major meat companies — including Tyson Foods, Cargill, Maple Leaf Foods and Perdue — <a href="https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/3/22/18273892/tyson-vegan-vegetarian-lab-meat-climate-change-animals" target="_blank">are starting to invest</a> in the fast-growing alternative protein market. They're positioning themselves more broadly as "protein companies," even as they work to reduce emissions from beef production in their supply chains through improved production practices.</p>
Moving Toward a Sustainable Food Future<p>Beef is more resource-intensive than most other foods and has a substantial impact on the climate. A sustainable food future will require a range of strategies from farm to plate. Food producers and consumers alike have a role to play in reducing beef's emissions as the global population continues to grow. And as we all work on strategies to curb climate change — whether in the agriculture sector, the energy sector or beyond — it's important we rely on the best available information to make decisions.</p>
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Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans' dinner plates, but they're also among the most resource-intensive: Beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.
Although there's growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there's a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.
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