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.
Up to 14% 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% 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% 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 more countries develop and the world’s population grows, emissions associated with food waste could soar from 0.5 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to between 1.9 and 2.5 GT annually by mid-century, showed the study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.
It is widely argued that cutting food waste and distributing the world’s surplus food where it is needed could help tackle hunger in places that do not have enough – especially given that land to expand farming is limited.
The researchers analysed food requirements in the past and for different future scenarios.
They found that while global average food demand per person remains almost constant, in the last five decades food availability has rapidly increased – hiking the emissions related to growing surplus food by more than 300%.
The paper did not look at how food waste could be shrunk, but initiatives to tackle the problem are already on the rise in both developed and developing countries.
In January, for example, 30 company heads, government ministers, and executives with foundations, research groups and charities launched a coalition to work towards cutting food waste by half and reducing food loss significantly by 2030.
Source: The Guardian UK