Showing results for: Carbon footprinting
The carbon footprint is a consumption-based indicator used to highlight the climate impacts of a certain good or service. Carbon footprinting is based on the life cycle assessment (LCA) approach but focuses only on greenhouse gas emissions, rather than a suite of environmental areas. The “size” of the footprint is usually expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). The footprint analysis considers impacts along several or all the stages of a product’s life cycle, which may span agricultural production (and the inputs to this production) through to consumption and waste disposal. The footprint approach can be used to measure the carbon impact of food at various scales; from the individual food product, to an entire meal, through to a dietary pattern of an individual or a country. Carbon footprinting may simply be undertaken by a company in order to understand the impacts of the products it sells and ascertain opportunities for improvement, but information about a product's footprint is also occasionally included on packaging in the form of a consumer-oriented label.
FCRN member Christian Reynolds has co-authored this paper, which finds that in Japan, differences in the carbon footprint of household food consumption are driven by what the paper describes as “unexpected” food categories: the households with higher food carbon footprints spend more on restaurant food, fish, vegetables, alcohol and confectionary.
This briefing from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) notes that demand for five cereals in sub-Saharan Africa is set to almost triple by 2050. It argues that it is possible for the region to be self-sufficient in cereals by 2050 using only the current area of cereal farmland, but that this requires significantly higher fertiliser use. To keep greenhouse gas emissions to the minimum possible will require suitable crop varieties, careful nutrient management, optimum planting densities and protection of crops against weeds, pests and diseases.
The Greenhouse Gas and Dietary choices Open source Toolkit (GGDOT) project funded by N8 Agrifood has launched two games about for public engagement on food and climate. The Climate Food Challenge is a single-player online game while the climate food flashcards can be printed off for two players to use. Both involve comparing the carbon footprint of different food types.
FCRN members Laurence Smith and Adrian Williams co-authored this paper, which finds that converting all food production in England and Wales to organic farming would reduce direct agricultural emissions in the UK, but would cause higher emissions from overseas farming due to lower yields in England and Wales.
Michelle Cain, Myles Allen and John Lynch of the University of Oxford have published a plain-language briefing note that explains how different ways of measuring the climate impact of methane (GWP100 versus GWP*) affect definitions of net zero emissions targets.
Methane emissions from ammonia fertiliser manufacturing plants (which use natural gas as a feedstock and energy source) in the United States are around one hundred times higher than currently reported levels, according to this study. Researchers used a Google Street View car equipped with methane analysers to take measurements downwind of six ammonia fertiliser plants (there are only 23 such plants in the US).
This paper by FCRN member Elinor Hallström assesses the nutritional content and climate impact of 37 seafood products. The paper finds high variability in nutritional and climate performance, with no consistent correlation between nutrition and climate impact across different seafood species. The paper calls for dietary advice to promote species with low climate impact and high nutritional value, including sprat, herring, mackerel and perch.
The UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has published its 2018 environmental progress report. FDF members report a 53% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in manufacturing operations since 1990, and a 39% reduction in water consumption since 2008.
This paper, by John Lynch of the University of Oxford’s LEAP project, finds that carbon footprint studies of beef cattle typically do not report separate values for emissions of different greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Instead, studies generally report only an aggregated figure in the form of the 100-year Global Warming Potential (GWP100) as CO2-equivalent.
This paper, by researchers from the University of Oxford’s LEAP project, models the climate impacts of beef cattle and cultured meat over the next 1000 years using a climate model that treats carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide separately, instead of using the widespread Global Warming Potential, which assigns a CO2-equivalent value to each greenhouse gas according to warming caused over a specified timeframe.
This paper models the system-wide changes and consequent shifts in pre-retail greenhouse gas emissions that might result from introducing a Europe- or North American-style refrigerated food chain to sub-Saharan Africa. Total emissions might increase or decrease, depending on the scenario.
This paper presents a ‘carbon benefits index’ to measure how land use change contributes to global carbon storage and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The index accounts for both the carbon that could be stored if the land were reforested, and the carbon emissions of producing the same food elsewhere.
People tend to underestimate the greenhouse gas emissions and energy use associated with different food types, according to this paper, but are likely to buy lower-emission food types when provided with information on greenhouse gas emissions.
Non-profit organisation Ceres has produced an overview of resources (standards, methodologies, tools, and calculators) for assessing greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production and agriculturally-driven land use change.
A recording of the launch of the report “Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda” can be viewed here, hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The video is around one hour long and includes an overview of the report’s findings and a question-and-answer session.
This paper calculates the carbon footprints of food supply across different European Union countries. Annual footprints vary from 610 to 1460 CO2 eq. per person, with Bulgaria having the lowest footprint and Portugal having the highest footprint. Meat and eggs account for the largest share of the carbon footprint (on average 56%), while dairy products account for a further 27%.