To help curb climate change, stop wasting food: scientists

Thu Apr 7, 2016 9:16am EDT
 
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By Megan Rowling

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and rising seas, scientists said on Thursday.

Up to 14 percent of emissions from agriculture in 2050 could be avoided by managing food use and distribution better, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

"Agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20 percent of overall global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010," said co-author Prajal Pradhan.

"Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change."

Between 30 and 40 percent of food produced around the world is never eaten, because it is spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.

The share of food wasted is expected to increase drastically if emerging economies like China and India adopt Western food habits, including a shift to eating more meat, the researchers warned.

Richer countries tend to consume more food than is healthy or simply waste it, they noted.

As poorer countries develop and the world's population grows, emissions associated with food waste could soar from 0.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to between 1.9 and 2.5 gigatonnes annually by mid-century, showed the study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.   Continued...