Knowledge for better food systems

World Watch Institute report

In November 2009 the World Watch Institute released a report arguing that the FAO's estimate of livestock's total contribution to global GHG emissions (18%) is a serious underestimate and that the true footprint of livestock production is around 51% higher.

It bases this figure on the claim that the FAO report fails to count, misallocates or overlooks additional emissions that are attributable to livestock. The three areas where the WW report differs from the FAO are as follows:

  • Respiration: ie. the CO2 that livestock breathe out (the FAO doesn't include this)
  • Methane emissions (the FAO uses a 100 year time frame for the global warming potential of livestock but it should be 20 years, which would increase the GWP from 21 to 78)
  • Overlooked land use: the opportunity cost of rearing livestock on land that, if it were to revert to forest, would be actively sequestering carbon
  • Four other areas (emissions from rendering, leather production etc)
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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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