To curb rising temperatures, most countries have focused on reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) as a way of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are also significant GHG contributors to climate change. Livestock farming is the primary producer of both of these GHGs, and is responsible for about 15% of all GHG emissions related to human activity. CH4’s short atmospheric lifespan and the mean global warming potential of both CH4 and N2O over the next century make reducing these GHGs imperative to the short-term.
Although up to half of the possible mitigation of GHGs in the agriculture, forestry, and land-use sectors could be accomplished by cutting back on livestock, the global demand for meat makes that impossible. Due to policies and cost surrounding the livestock industry, scientists estimate that only 10% of the potential livestock-related GHG reduction is possible. Without human dietary change, the livestock industry could account for half of our emissions budget imposed by the Paris Agreement by 2050, and all of it by 2070.