There is an “awareness gap” amongst the global public of the link between eating meat and climate change, and that presents a real obstacle to keeping global warming under the 2-degree threshold, a new study finds.
From the London-based policy institute Chatham House, Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector: Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption explores how the livestock sector’s contribution to climate change—14.5 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions—is failing to get the attention it warrants.
To assess public attitudes on the issue, Chatham House commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a multi-language, multi-country online survey. The results showed that 64 percent of respondents said exhaust emissions were a major contributor to climate change compared to just 29 percent who said livestock production was. Yet the two sectors’ actual contribution to emissions is roughly the same.
From the paper: “Despite the scale and trajectory of emissions from the livestock sector, it attracts remarkably little policy attention at either the international or national level.” It notes that few countries’ mitigation plans submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reflect emissions reduction targets for livestock production.
By marginalizing livestock production’s contribution to climate change, through, for example, lack of media attention, the lack of public awareness of the issue is not surprising, the authors write.
Though campaigns to reduce emissions from the energy sector, for example, have received notable attention, similar campaign to address livestock emissions have not. Contributing to this omission, the report states, are fear of interest group backlash, risks of accusations of being a ‘nanny state,’ and lack of evidence on the efficacy of such measures, which enables opponents’ efforts to thwart or delay consumption reductions.
The good news, the researchers found, is that respondents who expressed a higher awareness of the livestock sector’s contribution to climate change were those who also are already taking or are willing to take action on their dairy and meat-eating habits. That means that this awareness gap is key to effecting behavioral change, the study authors write.
They also found that respondents in Brazil, China and India—where demand in meat and dairy is expected to increase—expressed high awareness of anthropogenic climate change and a willingness to make food choices based on climate impacts.
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