A new report reveals most consumers aren’t aware that the meat and livestock industry is a bigger source of global carbon emissions than transport — and that’s even when air travel and shipping are included in the transport figures! However, the report, titled Livestock — Climate Change’s Forgotten Sectoralso found that consumers were more willing to reduce their meat consumption once they better understood the impacts, giving hope that awareness campaigns could work towards reducing the meat and dairy industries’ contribution to global warming.

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Rob Bailey, lead author of the Chatham House study, commented in The Guardian, “Preventing catastrophic warming is dependent on tackling meat and dairy consumption, but the world is doing very little. A lot is being done on deforestation and transport, but there is a huge gap on the livestock sector. There is a deep reluctance to engage because of the received wisdom that it is not the place of governments or civil society to intrude into people’s lives and tell them what to eat.”

Related: INFOGRAPHIC: The True Environmental Cost of Eating Meat

However, the study found that “Consumers with a higher level of awareness were more likely to indicate willingness to reduce their meat and dairy consumption for climate objectives. Closing the awareness gap is therefore likely to be an important precondition for behaviour change.” In particular, it found that consumers in the emerging economies of Brazil, India and China had a high rate of acceptance that climate change was caused by human activity and were therefore more willing to modify their consumption levels of meat than those respondents who did not make a link between the two.

This last point is important because global demand for meat and dairy products is rising rapidly with increased industrialization and affluence. China is already the biggest consumer of meat by volume, but its growth in consumption rate is expected to be four times higher than the second-fastest growing consumer, Brazil. If current trends continue, by 2050 worldwide consumption of animal products is expected to have risen 76 percent for meat and 65 percent for dairy compared to 2005–2007 levels. Demand for cereals is only expected to increase by 40 percent in the same time frame, by way of contrast. The report concludes that: “Even with ambitious action to reduce the emissions intensity of livestock production, it is unlikely that global temperature rises can be kept below two degrees Celsius in the absence of a radical shift in meat and dairy consumption.”

+ Chatham House

Via The Guardian

Photos by ornello_pics and Marc Dalmuder via Flickr