How exactly does food contribute to global warming?

Global Warming - More than Fed

There is plenty of conversation about how climate change will affect our food system in the future, but there seems to be very little about how our food system is a major contributor to climate change to start with. But how and why is that the case? So many ways. But we’ll just discuss the BIG four to start with.

Deforestation - More Than Fed


This is when forests are cleared to make room for farms and/or livestock. And something that is happening on a daily basis in some parts of the world. Among the many gifts forests give us, is one we desperately need: help with slowing climate change. Trees capture greenhouse gases – like carbon dioxide – preventing them from accumulating in the atmosphere and warming our planet.

Every time we clear a forest, we’re not only destroying one of our best friends when it comes to capturing some of GHGs we humans create. But we are also creating emissions by cutting them down.

When a trees is felled, it releases all of the carbon it’s been storing. And in addition to this, what the deforesters do with the felled trees — whether they leave them to decay on the forest floor or burning them — creates yet further emissions.

And this doesn’t take into account the ongoing effect this approach to gathering farmland has on our atmosphere. With, in most cases – the farming system replacing the forest – will continue to have a large impact on our greenhouse gas emissions. Replacing a positive with a negative. 

We need to be maintaining, planting and nurturing our woodlands, and forests. Both here at home, and further afield. As not only can they play an important role in the fight against climate change. But they are of huge importance to our eco-system. From the flora and fauna contained within them – to the very air we breathe.

Extensive Use of Fossil Fuels.

Of course, it would be a massive task to rule fossil fuels out of farming. As they are extensively used to operate farm machinery on the ground. However, the shipping of food around the globe – in many cases – unnecessarily, has a large part to play. Planes, trains and automobiles almost all burn fossil fuels to get from A to B. And when you are craving that avocado for Sunday brunch, you have to be aware of it’s journey to your plate. The average avocado has travelled 15,000km on route to you.

Methane from Livestock Farming

“Methane pollution causes one quarter of the global warming that we’re experiencing right now,” says Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund. Of course all of that methane isn’t create by our food systems. But a significant amount of it is.

It is estimated that livestock farming is responsible for as much as 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions. But innovative farmers have been researching potential ways to reduce this.

Via alternative feeding systems. Early results have shown that methane can be cut by up to 99%by introducing seaweed to the diet of cattle. A compound found in some seaweed disrupts enzymes used by the microbes to produce methane – so this is certainly something that warrants further investigation. Accompanied by a ‘eat less, eat better’ approach to meat – we could see a significant reduction!

 Food Waste

Did you know that approximately one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste?! That’s tons of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, and grains that either never leave their area of production, get lost or spoiled on their route to market, or are thrown away in shops, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens. We are throwing away food, whilst we are still struggling to feed all of the people on our planet?!

But wasted food isn’t just a social or humanitarian concern — it’s a major environmental one.

When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane. About 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting so much food!

As the world’s population continues to grow, our challenge should not be how to grow more food, but to feed more people while wasting less of what we already produce.


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