Keeping global warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including land and food, said the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a report released Aug. 8, 2019.
The panel of scientists said agriculture, deforestration and other land use - such as harvesting peat and managing grasslands and wetlands - generate about one-third of human greenhouse gas emissions and 44% of methane emissions. The panel suggests that farmland be reduced and forestland increased to keep the earth from getting more than 1.5 degrees C hotter than in the pre-industrial era. Global temperatures have already risen about 1 degree C in the past 150 years.
Currently, about 50% of the globe's vegetated land is dedicated to agriculture — and about 30% of cropland is used to grow grain for animal feed. Given how much land it takes to grow food to feed livestock, meat production is a leading cause of deforestation, reported National Public Radio.
Cattle ranchers dispute the UN report that links cows to climate change, said a story on CBS This Morning, which quoted UC Cooperative Extension animal science specialist Frank Mitloehner. Mitloehner studies livestock and air quality. He told the news station that Americans should focus on the energy wasted on food they don't consume.
“Forty percent of all food produced in this country goes to waste and you know who the main culprit is? You and I,” Mitloehner said. “So if you're really concerned about your personal environmental footprint around food, well, waste less.”