Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Agriculture, food production among worst environmental offenders, report finds

Date:
June 9, 2010
Source:
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Summary:
Earth is expected to be home to roughly 9 billion people by 2050 -- and everyone needs to eat. But a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme observes that growing and producing food make agriculture and food consumption among the most important drivers of environmental pressures, including climate change and habitat loss.

Earth is expected to be home to roughly 9 billion people by 2050 -- and everyone needs to eat. But a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme observes that growing and producing food make agriculture and food consumption among the most important drivers of environmental pressures, including climate change and habitat loss.

The report's lead author is Edgar Hertwich, a Professor of Energy and Process Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The report, called "Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials" is the first-ever global-level assessment of the causes of different environmental pressures that result from economic activities. Professor Hertwich, who is director of NTNU's Industrial Ecology Programme, worked with colleagues for two years to develop detailed answers to three interrelated questions:

  • What are the most important industries that cause climate change?
  • How much energy do different consumption activities require when the production of the products is taken into account?
  • What are the materials that contribute most to environmental problems?

Agriculture causes major environmental impacts

Professor Hertwich said he was surprised to find that the environmental impacts of agriculture were greater than the production of materials such as cement and other manufactured goods. While the report does not make specific recommendations for change -- it is instead a detailed description of the problem -- Hertwich says, "it is clear that we can't all have a European average diet -- we just don't have the land and resources for that."

The report itself observes that "impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth, increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."

More income, more meat in our diets

Another surprise was the effect of increasing economic affluence on different environmental impacts. The report authors found that environmental impacts increase approximately 80 per cent with the doubling of an individual's income. This increase results in part from a shift to a more meat-intensive diet.

Another related problem -- and another surprise to Hertwich -- was the amount of food waste in both rich and poor countries. "Between 30 and 50 per cent of all food produced is spoiled or wasted," Hertwich said. "It's really quite surprising how much food waste there is." In poor countries, food is spoiled on the way to the market, while in rich countries, it spoils in people's refrigerators, he said.

Hope for the future?

Both Hertwich and international environmental officials say that people and policymakers must face the substantial environmental challenges facing all of humankind. In a press release from the UNEP, Ashok Khosla, co-chair of the Panel and President of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), is quoted as saying: "Incremental efficiency gains in, for example, motor cars or home heating systems have provided some improvements but, faced with the scale of the challenge, far more transformational measures need to be taken-- currently we are fiddling--or fiddling around the edges--while Rome burns."

Hertwich agreed with Khosla's assessment. "There are fundamental challenges out there that I don't think that we as a society have woken up to yet," he said. "Somewhere in our rear-view mirror there is a big monster, and we are pretending it is not there. But I think if we really decide to tackle these challenges we will be able to do so."

Hertwich has also developed a website that enables individuals to look at the Carbon Footprint of Nations (http://carbonfootprintofnations.com/). The report was released to coincide with the UN's Environment Day on June 5.

The report is available at: http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/documents/pdf/PriorityProductsAndMaterials_Report_Full.pdf


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Agriculture, food production among worst environmental offenders, report finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100609094353.htm>.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (2010, June 9). Agriculture, food production among worst environmental offenders, report finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100609094353.htm
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Agriculture, food production among worst environmental offenders, report finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100609094353.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins