Environment Plants and Animals

Study Shows That Food Waste is a Big Cause of Climate Change

Food Waste

A shocking one third of all food produced in the world is wasted and never reaches the mouths of consumers. A team of researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have now demonstrated shocking projections for many countries around the globe, showing not only just how much food goes to waste, but the amount of harmful emissions produced by these losses.

By investing in ways to avoid such massive-scale food waste, we would also be preventing devastating climate impacts. Lead author Ceren Hic says simply by consuming food instead of reaching for the trash, we can directly fight negative wide-spread occurrences on the rise, such as weather extremes and rising sea levels. A staggering one tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions created by agriculture are expected to be traced to the waste of food by the middle of the century.

While the availability of food is higher on average throughout the world, there are still many developing countries that battle undernourishment. If we work together to save food, not only will this issue be resolved, but the planet will become a much safer place with better and sustainable food security. Co-author Prajal Pradhan says in the year 2010, agriculture accounted for more than 20% of greenhouse gas emissions on a worldwide scale.

Researchers analyzed food requirements of the past, as well as a number of scenarios that the future may hold. They took note of such factors as demographic changes, demand versus availability and the emissions associated within each example. The studies showed that demand per person has not changed much at all, but availability of food has increased drastically. Pradhan says richer countries use a lot more food than they need or throw it away. By the year 2050, emissions associated with food waste could increase a staggering amount: 18 Gigatons of CO2. Today we create about 0.5 Gigatons each year. These large numbers include emissions only created by agriculture and are completely preventable.

Deputy chair of PIK research domain Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities, and co-author Jurgen Kropp says 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown away every single year. Loss of food is primarily present in developing countries that do not have the means to efficiently use agricultural infrastructures. Kropp says China and India, for example, are projected to have much larger amounts of food waste due to lifestyle changes. Westernized food practices and lifestyle are hurting the environment and with other countries beginning to take part in the same types of food-related production habits, the Earth is in danger.

In a world where populations are on the rise, the health of our climate is crucial. In order to increase the security of the world’s food, prevent irreversible and irreparable damage to the health of our planet, something must be done. With larger shares of animal-based products on the rise, there comes greater and faster growing greenhouse gas emissions that show no signs of slowing down. The problem is, showing consumers just how important it is to take a good look at what and when they are purchasing. As the world population increases, the need for food is increasing. 10 billion mouths are a lot to feed and if we do not begin eating smarter, this planet is going to have a hard time keeping up.

Full study has been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.