Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

Evaluating Dietary Changes and Their Impact on the Food-Energy-Water Nexus and Climate Change Mitigation using an Integrated

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - 12:05
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The composition of the global diet has evolved with the rise of meat consumption in developing countries. The steady rise in the consumption of meat, along with an increasing global population, has changed the agricultural and livestock landscape of the world. We have developed diet scenarios in which the global food consumption is increased to match the USDA recommended daily caloric intake while the percentage of meat within the diet is changed to closely mirror that of the standard United States diet (High Meat) and the diet of India (Low Meat). We use the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM), an integrated assessment model (IAM), to process our dietary change scenarios. We attempt to quantify the changes in the global land, water, and emissions footprint. Along with the standard diet scenarios, we aim to understand the implications of our diet scenarios within a strict RCP 2.6 climate change scenario. Changes in land use, emissions, and water consumption are largely dependent upon the resultant changes to the livestock sector. Scenarios of increased dependency on livestock result in cropland expansion, a rise in water withdrawals, and escalated non-CO2 emissions that lead to consequent increases in global mean temperature. Under strict climate policies, extensive cropland and biomass expansion is observed at the expense of much of the global forests. Our analysis shows that even in the absence of climate policies, the burden that increasing the amount of meat in the global diet has upon the global landscape could be unsustainable, while lowering global meat consumption could lead to water savings, decreases in emissions, and available land for reforestation or biomass growth.

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