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Dietary Choices and Climate Change 
Photo: Matthieu Paley, National Geographic 
Kimberly Nicholas 
Lund University Centre ...
2
Which causes more global warming? 
Photo: Jodi Cobb, National Geographic Photo: Lee Turmpore, National Geographic
Livestock are major greenhouse gas sources 
Photo: Jodi Cobb, National Geographic Photo: Lee Turmpore, National Geographic...
5 Things Everyone Should Know About Climate Change
We need a new food paradigm 
real food production 
total agricultural production 
food security goals 
environmental goals...
Right now, we have too little food security… 
Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
… and too much environmental harm 
Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
We need more real, fair & resilient food 
Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
… and less environmental damage 
Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
Livestock has major environmental impacts
Domesticating the Planet 
Science 2011, 334 (35)
Global meat consumption has 
increased dramatically since 1960 
Godfray et al., 2010, Science
Land is limited on the blue planet… 
14 
NASA PPM
15 
12% ice-free land used for crops 
(size of South America) 
Photo: Reuters/Paulo Whitaker 
Ramankutty et al., 2008; Lef...
22% ice-free land used for grazing livestock 
16 
Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand 
(size of Africa) 
Ramankutty et al., 2008; ...
Humans farming the planet 
17 
Ramankutty et al., 2008; Leff et al., 2004 
crops 
livestock
Cassidy et al., 2013, 
Only 59% of calories produced become food 
Current crops could feed 4 billion more if fed directly ...
Meat is inefficient to produce human nutrition 
Slide courtesy Emily Cassidy. Source: Cassidy et al., 2013, 
ERL.
Livestock are large greenhouse gas producers 
Source: Meat Atlas 2014. Data: FAO
Water Resources Are Limited… 
ALL water on Earth 
(1384 km sphere) 
Liquid fresh water 
(270 km sphere) 
Fresh water in 
l...
Agricultural production is 92% 
of human water footprint 
Hoekstra and Mekonnen, 2012, PNAS 
Photos: National Geographic 
...
Traditional fertilizer 
23 
Photos: Peter Essick, National Geographic
Modern fertilizer 
24 
Photos: Peter Essick, National Geographic Photos: UNEP 2011, National Geographic
Livestock “probably largest sectoral source 
of water pollution” 
(In US: 55% erosion, 37% pesticides, 33% N & P) 
(FAO, 2...
26 
Livestock manure: 
from valuable nutrient to toxic waste 
Photo: Mishka Hnner, 2013. Tascosa Feedyards waste lagoon, T...
Beef uses 28x more land 
Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs 
Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS 
...
Beef uses 11x more water 
Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs 
Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS ...
Beef produces 5x more greenhouse gases 
Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs 
Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al...
Beef produces 6x more reactive nitrogen 
Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs 
Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et a...
Beef has the largest footprint of 
animal products 
Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS
How much meat are we consuming? 
Data: FAO 2013; map: chartsbin.com
How much meat is recommended? 
~0.7 grams / kilogram 
90 kilogram person (200 
lbs) 
63 grams per day = 23 kilograms per y...
Source: FAO Food Balance Sheets 
Slide from Emily Cassidy
Most countries are consuming more meat than 
recommended for health - and the environment 
Source: FAO Food Balance Sheets...
How much meat are we consuming? 
Ukraine: 48.5 kg/person Too much! 
Data: FAO 2013; map: chartsbin.com 
Recommended level
How can we do better?
Health and environmental goals align in 
plant-based diets
Decrease meat consumption 
“In terms of immediacy… and 
feasibility… [reduced meat 
consumption] is clearly the most 
attr...
Data: Scarborough et al., 2014, Climatic Change. Graphic: Brad Plumer, vox.com
Smaller portions of meat, meat-free meals go a long way 
Data: Scarborough et al., 2014, Climatic Change. Graphic: Brad Pl...
Go further 
“Meat is a wasteful use of water 
and creates a lot of greenhouse 
gases. It puts enormous pressure 
on the wo...
Vegetarians had half the carbon footprint of heavy meat eaters 
Fish-eaters and vegetarians had similar carbon footprints ...
“We conclude that 
reduced ruminant meat and 
dairy consumption will be 
indispensable for reaching 
the 2°C target 
with ...
Some exciting models 
EAT Forum 2014 
Picture from @kaityarnall
Figure 1 highlights just a few of the issues that may need considering in defining a 
„sustainable diet.‟ 
“Figure What 1:...
We vote with our forks three times every day 
Photo: Seven Stans, National Geographic
If we’re serious about 
addressing climate 
change, 
we have to get serious 
about reducing meat 
consumption. 
Image: Bil...
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Dietary Choices and Climate Change

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A lecture by Kimberly Nicholas, professor of Sustainability Science at Lund University, summarizing recent research on the environmental impacts of food choices. The lecture was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden, then subtitled and shown at a youth leadership conference organized by a former student in Ukraine.

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Dietary Choices and Climate Change

  1. 1. Dietary Choices and Climate Change Photo: Matthieu Paley, National Geographic Kimberly Nicholas Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, Lund, Sweden www.kimnicholas.com @KA_Nicholas
  2. 2. 2
  3. 3. Which causes more global warming? Photo: Jodi Cobb, National Geographic Photo: Lee Turmpore, National Geographic
  4. 4. Livestock are major greenhouse gas sources Photo: Jodi Cobb, National Geographic Photo: Lee Turmpore, National Geographic Total greenhouse gas emissions (CO2-equivalent): 18% 14% • 37% methane (84x stronger than CO2) • 65% nitrous oxide (264x stronger than CO2) Sources: FAO, 2006, Livestock’s Long Shadow; 20-year global warming potentials: IPCC WG1 2013, Table 8.A.1; Transport: IPCC WG3 2014, SPM
  5. 5. 5 Things Everyone Should Know About Climate Change
  6. 6. We need a new food paradigm real food production total agricultural production food security goals environmental goals minimum goals for 2050 food distribution and access resilience of food system greenhouse gas emissions water pollution biodiversity loss unsustainable water withdrawals 19 Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
  7. 7. Right now, we have too little food security… Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
  8. 8. … and too much environmental harm Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
  9. 9. We need more real, fair & resilient food Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
  10. 10. … and less environmental damage Slide from Jon Foley. Figure from Foley et al., 2011, Nature
  11. 11. Livestock has major environmental impacts
  12. 12. Domesticating the Planet Science 2011, 334 (35)
  13. 13. Global meat consumption has increased dramatically since 1960 Godfray et al., 2010, Science
  14. 14. Land is limited on the blue planet… 14 NASA PPM
  15. 15. 15 12% ice-free land used for crops (size of South America) Photo: Reuters/Paulo Whitaker Ramankutty et al., 2008; Leff et al., 2004
  16. 16. 22% ice-free land used for grazing livestock 16 Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand (size of Africa) Ramankutty et al., 2008; Leff et al., 2004
  17. 17. Humans farming the planet 17 Ramankutty et al., 2008; Leff et al., 2004 crops livestock
  18. 18. Cassidy et al., 2013, Only 59% of calories produced become food Current crops could feed 4 billion more if fed directly to people
  19. 19. Meat is inefficient to produce human nutrition Slide courtesy Emily Cassidy. Source: Cassidy et al., 2013, ERL.
  20. 20. Livestock are large greenhouse gas producers Source: Meat Atlas 2014. Data: FAO
  21. 21. Water Resources Are Limited… ALL water on Earth (1384 km sphere) Liquid fresh water (270 km sphere) Fresh water in lakes & rivers (56km sphere) Data from Shiklomanov, In Gleick 1993,“Water in Crisis.” 21 Visualization by USGS Water Science Photo Gallery
  22. 22. Agricultural production is 92% of human water footprint Hoekstra and Mekonnen, 2012, PNAS Photos: National Geographic 22
  23. 23. Traditional fertilizer 23 Photos: Peter Essick, National Geographic
  24. 24. Modern fertilizer 24 Photos: Peter Essick, National Geographic Photos: UNEP 2011, National Geographic
  25. 25. Livestock “probably largest sectoral source of water pollution” (In US: 55% erosion, 37% pesticides, 33% N & P) (FAO, 2006, Livestock’s Long Shadow) Photo: 25 NASA
  26. 26. 26 Livestock manure: from valuable nutrient to toxic waste Photo: Mishka Hnner, 2013. Tascosa Feedyards waste lagoon, Texas. Compiled from Google Earth.
  27. 27. Beef uses 28x more land Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS beef
  28. 28. Beef uses 11x more water Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS beef
  29. 29. Beef produces 5x more greenhouse gases Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS beef
  30. 30. Beef produces 6x more reactive nitrogen Compared with dairy, poultry, pork, or eggs Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS
  31. 31. Beef has the largest footprint of animal products Data are for USA. Source: Eshel et al., 2014, PNAS
  32. 32. How much meat are we consuming? Data: FAO 2013; map: chartsbin.com
  33. 33. How much meat is recommended? ~0.7 grams / kilogram 90 kilogram person (200 lbs) 63 grams per day = 23 kilograms per year Otten et al., 2006. Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements. National Academies Press. Slide from Emily Cassidy
  34. 34. Source: FAO Food Balance Sheets Slide from Emily Cassidy
  35. 35. Most countries are consuming more meat than recommended for health - and the environment Source: FAO Food Balance Sheets Slide from Emily Cassidy Recommended intake
  36. 36. How much meat are we consuming? Ukraine: 48.5 kg/person Too much! Data: FAO 2013; map: chartsbin.com Recommended level
  37. 37. How can we do better?
  38. 38. Health and environmental goals align in plant-based diets
  39. 39. Decrease meat consumption “In terms of immediacy… and feasibility… [reduced meat consumption] is clearly the most attractive opportunity. Give up meat for one day a week initially, and decrease it from there.” Dr. Rajendra Pachauri Chair of IPCC Quoted in The Guardian, 7 September 2008 Photo: Elizabeth Ruiz
  40. 40. Data: Scarborough et al., 2014, Climatic Change. Graphic: Brad Plumer, vox.com
  41. 41. Smaller portions of meat, meat-free meals go a long way Data: Scarborough et al., 2014, Climatic Change. Graphic: Brad Plumer, vox.com
  42. 42. Go further “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.” Lord Nicholas Stern Former World Bank chief economist Quoted in The Daily Mail, 27 October 2009
  43. 43. Vegetarians had half the carbon footprint of heavy meat eaters Fish-eaters and vegetarians had similar carbon footprints Vegans go the extra mile Data: Scarborough et al., 2014, Climatic Change. Graphic: Brad Plumer, vox.com
  44. 44. “We conclude that reduced ruminant meat and dairy consumption will be indispensable for reaching the 2°C target with a high probability, unless unprecedented advances in technology take place.” Hedenus et al., 2014, Climatic
  45. 45. Some exciting models EAT Forum 2014 Picture from @kaityarnall
  46. 46. Figure 1 highlights just a few of the issues that may need considering in defining a „sustainable diet.‟ “Figure What 1: Issues is to consider a sustainable when defining a sustainable healthy diet diet?” Garnett, 2014 The amorphousness of the word sits at the root of disagreements: stakeholders not only define and use „sustainability‟ differently but, even when they agree about its components,
  47. 47. We vote with our forks three times every day Photo: Seven Stans, National Geographic
  48. 48. If we’re serious about addressing climate change, we have to get serious about reducing meat consumption. Image: Bill Hogan on vox.com

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