Webinar: Do we need to stop eating meat and dairy to tackle climate change?

Source: Carbon Brief

To mark a week-long series of articles looking at food and climate change, Carbon Brief hosted its latest webinar on Thursday and a video (above) of the recording is now available to watch on YouTube.

The topic for discussion was: “Do we need to stop eating meat and dairy to tackle climate change?” 

It comes after an interactive Carbon Brief explainer exploring the climate impact of meat and dairy, and an in-depth Q&A examining dietary trends around the world. 

Other articles in the series include guest posts on emissions from coronavirus-related food waste and future diets in low- and middle-income countries, as well as a piece compiling expert views on how diets will need to change to achieve international climate targets.

Carbon Brief’s science writer Daisy Dunne and policy writer Josh Gabbatiss researched, wrote and commissioned the series.

The webinar featured four panelists, whose collective expertise covers a range of topics relating to food and climate change.

Prof Pete Smith is professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen, and has served as convening lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

He discussed the emissions arising from meat and dairy production – and how they compare to other food groups.

Dr Helen Harwatt is senior research fellow at Chatham House and food and climate policy fellow at Harvard Law School. At the end of last year she wrote a letter to Lancet Planetary Health calling for countries to set timeframes for “peak livestock” in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets.

She talked about the carbon sequestration benefits that can come from restoring native vegetation on agricultural land, following dietary shifts away from animal products. This was based on her recent study published in Nature Sustainability.

Dr Modi Mwatsama is a senior science lead for food systems, nutrition and health at the Wellcome Trust. She helped to secure the inclusion of sustainability considerations in the UK government’s Eatwell Guide and also appeared at the recent Climate Assembly.

She focused on the overconsumption of animal products, particularly in high-income nations, and the various adverse health impacts of these consumption patterns. 

Dr Tara Garnett is a researcher at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. She founded the Food Climate Research Network in 2005, which later this year will be replaced by a new collaborative initiative called Table.

She addressed the numerous cultural and economic factors that impact people’s diets and considered how policymaking needs to take them into account.

Each panelist was invited to bring a slide to show when explaining their research, which can now be downloaded via Google Drive.

The event generated a lot of interest and more than 100 questions were submitted to the panel. Carbon Brief will pass some of the unanswered questions onto the panellists and post any responses to this page.

Many of the most popular questions, including queries concerning the relative merits of grass-fed and organic products, the government interventions required to change people’s diets and how to compare the emissions footprints of different food items, are also addressed by other articles in the food week series.

Carbon Brief hopes to host more webinars in the future. If you have suggestions for topics and panelists, please send them to webinar@carbonbrief.org.

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