When discussing the connection between food and our environment, it is necessary to touch on greenhouse gas emissions of different foods. Cattle is often touted as the worst offender, while rice is also blamed for a high amount of emissions. Transporting food of course releases emissions, and air transport is the least favorable option for the environment.
So – what percentage of greenhouse gas emissions is the food and agriculture sector actually responsible for? Our World in Data created a chart that shows how much each industrial sector releases, and as you can see below, the green section represents the Agriculture, Forestry, and Land Use sector.
Livestock and manure is indeed the biggest contributor in this sector, releasing a total of 5.8 percent of all greenhouse gases. When soil is tilled for agriculture this releases stored carbon, and this contributes a total of 4.1 percent of all greenhouse gases. Rice cultivation (which often involves flooding fields) leads to methane being released, contributing a total of 1.3 percent of all greenhouse gases.
Although Energy in Agriculture and Fishing is listed as a small 1.7 percent and Food and Tobacco is listed as 1 percent, it is likely that food and agriculture contributes more to the Energy section. Transport accounts for a large amount of emissions, but it is difficult to differentiate what amount of transport emissions comes from transporting food across the world.
With the recent Supreme Court decision to limit the EPA’s ability to moderate greenhouse gas emissions, it is more important than ever as consumers to be aware of what sectors contribute the most to total greenhouse gas emissions. Although many greenhouse gas emissions are out of our control, as consumers, we have the power to choose what companies we want to support and avoid. Our dollar is our power, and we can use it to buy foods and other products that have lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Future Foodie reports on the future of food, and how feeding ourselves will look as the state of our environment continues to change. As climate change continues to develop rapidly, the way we eat will also change. To keep up to date on what the future of our food looks like as the global climate changes, sign up for our newsletter below.