Thursday, June 30, 2016

Just Five Common Foods Produce More Greenhouse Gas Emissions than Nearly All Countries

Seeder on farm field (Credit: AP Photo/J.D. Pooley, File) Click to Enlarge.
Think about the last time you ate something that included wheat, soy, corn, rice, or palm oil.

As some of the most common commodity crops in the world, it’s likely that your last meal contained at least one of these ingredients, even if you weren’t aware of it. Palm oil can hide in things like sandwich bread or pizza dough, while soy can find its way into everything from cereal to canned soups.

That means that, knowingly or not, your last meal probably helped contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution that is driving global climate change.  According to a new report from Oxfam America, the production of these five commodity crops emits more greenhouse gases annually than each of the world’s countries, save for the United States and China.

A lot of those emissions occur on the farm, released from eroded soil or overgenerous amounts of fertilizer.  Specific crops also contribute to climate change in unique ways:  rice production is especially dangerous to climate because it generates methane, while crops like palm oil and soy contribute to global warming through deforestation.  But emissions from food also extend well beyond the field, from the trucks it takes to ship the goods from warehouses to stores, to the methane that is released when those products end up in landfills.

That’s a problem, the report argues, especially if the world really wants to stick to the goal of limiting the world to well below 2 degrees Celsius of warming agreed on in Paris last December.  In order to fully achieve the vision set in Paris, Aditi Sen, Oxfam America’s senior policy adviser for climate change, says that food companies need to play a major role, which involves stepping up their commitment to climate action.

“It’s impossible to reach [the Paris] goal unless food and agriculture [emissions] reductions are made,” Sen told ThinkProgress.  “The food sector absolutely needs to be part of the solution.”

Ironically, the food sector is also one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate change — making action on climate imperative not just for the planet, but for the bottom line of some of the world’s largest companies.

Read more at Just Five Common Foods Produce More Greenhouse Gas Emissions than Nearly All Countries

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