Slashing meat intake vital for curbing emissions

April 16th, 2012 - 5:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 16 (IANS) Per capita meat consumption need to be halved by 2050 in the developed world if the emission of nitrous oxide (N2O), one of the most important greenhouse gases, is to be curbed, as set out by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This is the finding from a new study, which also claims that N2O emissions from the industrial and agricultural sectors will also need to be cut by 50 percent if targets are to be met.

The findings have been made by Eric A. Davidson of The Woods Hole Research Center, Massachusetts, and demonstrate the magnitude of changes needed to stabilize atmospheric N2O concentrations as well as improve the diets of the growing human population, the journal Environmental Research Letters reported.

N2O is the third highest contributor to climate change behind carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4); however, it poses a greater challenge to mitigate as nitrogen is an essential element for food production, according to a university statement.

It is also the most potent of these three greenhouse gases as it is a much better absorber of infrared radiation; however, the total man-made emissions are about six million tonnes of nitrogen as N2O compared to 10 billion tonnes of carbon as CO2.

The main sources of N2O are from the spreading of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers onto agricultural soils and storage and use of livestock manure. The nitrogen contained in fertilizers and manure is broken down by microbes that live in the soil and released into the atmosphere as N2O.

Davidson believes that N2O emissions can be reduced through better management of fertilizer and manure sources, as well as reducing the developed world’s per capita meat consumption to relieve pressure on fertilizer demand and reduce growth in the amount of manure being produced.

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