As indicated above, mitigating climate change is high on the Government’s agenda for the future of Scottish agriculture. Governmental decisions in this area are informed by peer-reviewed climate science; so, let’s take a look at what they know.
By sector, agriculture and related land-use comprise almost a quarter of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions. By food group, red meat (beef, lamb and pork) and dairy are the top two highest emitters of greenhouse gases per person in Scotland.
When analysed across five environmental factors (greenhouse gas emissions, land use, fossil fuel energy use, eutrophication-potential and acidification-potential), ruminant meat has impacts 20-100 times greater than plant-based foods. Dairy, eggs, pork, poultry, and seafood have impacts 2-25 times higher than plants per kilocalorie of food produced. A comprehensive study by Oxford University of almost 40,000 farms found that even the lowest-impact animal products caused more environmental harm than their vegetable protein substitutes. A global shift from current diets to diets that exclude animal products would reduce food’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 73%. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concurred with these findings in their special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, finding that a shift to plant-based diets would save up to 70% in greenhouse gas emissions globally.