The future of global food

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Date(s) - 19/08/
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Climagination + Sustainable Futures


A discussion about future diets in the world and their implications for climate change and sustainability.

A state-of-the-art advanced computer model (GCAM- global change assessment model) of global energy, economy, land use and environment was used to determine the impact of various future global diet scenarios on land use and climate change. In the future, if global diets begin to resemble the current western diet (with about 1/3 of the calories from animal products) the world will run out of arable land before the end of the century. On the other hand, if global diets move toward an average Indian diet (with about 10% animal products) we would be able to feed the world and still leave land for nature as well. This means that as the world’s citizens become wealthier and demand more meat, dairy and poultry, something will have to change, because the current western diet is likely not viable nor economical.

Furthermore, the current scale of animal product consumption makes addressing the climate issue far more challenging if not impossible. This is because diets are linked to energy systems (bioenergy availability), forestry, land and water, as well as greenhouse gas emissions from animals themselves. Reducing meat consumption is the easiest and largest contribution to mitigating climate change that an individual can make.
Analysis of statistical data from the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO on historical food consumption suggests an apparent decoupling of economic growth and animal consumption that is currently taking place. We may be on a large scale transition away from animal products, and this has the potential to reshape the landscape of the planet.