If the world's meat eaters would cut on their non-vegetarian diet, it could cut 20 trillion dollars off the cost of fighting climate change, reveals a new research.
According to a report in New Scientist, the researchers involved said that if people reduce their intake of beef, pork, and other meat products, it would lead to the creation of a huge new carbon sink, as vegetation would thrive on unused farmland.
AdvertisementThe model takes into account farmland that is used to grow extra food to make up for the lost meat, but that requires less area, so some will be abandoned.
Millions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, would also be saved every year due to reduced emissions from farms.
These impacts would lessen the need for expensive carbon-saving technologies, such as "clean coal" power plants, and so save huge sums, according to Elke Stehfest of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and colleagues.
Climate-change experts have warned of the high carbon cost of meat for several years.
Beef is particularly damaging. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is released from flatulent cows and by manure as it decays.
Furthermore, to produce a kilogram of beef (2.2 pounds), farmers also have to feed a cow 15 kg of grain and 30 kg of forage. Grain requires fertilizer, which is energy intensive to produce.
Stehfest has now weighed the economic impact of beef and other meats against the cost of stabilizing carbon dioxide levels at 450 parts per million - a level that some scientists say is needed to help prevent dangerous droughts and sea level rises.
If eating habits do not change, Stehfest estimates that emissions would have to be cut by two-thirds by 2050, which is likely to cost around 40 trillion dollars.
If the global population shifted to a low-meat diet - defined as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week - around 15 million square kilometers of farmland would be freed up.
Vegetation growing on this land would mop up carbon dioxide. It could alternatively be used to grow bioenergy crops, which would displace fossil fuels.
According to Stehfest, greenhouse gas emissions would also fall by 10 percent due to the drop in livestock numbers.
Together, these impacts would halve the costs of dealing with climate change by 2050.