Contribution of Livestock in Climate Change – UPSC GS3

Global Methane Pledge:
  • About 103 countries, took the Global Methane Pledge, which includes a commitment to reduce emissions of this gas by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of this decade.
  • Problem of emissions from animal agriculture and livestock production is central to the global discussion on climate change.
Contribution of Livestock to climate change:
  • According to the IPCC:
    • Livestock production currently contributes at least 14.5 % of all greenhouse gas emissions.
    • If current production levels continue on the same trajectory, it is expected to account for nearly 81% of emissions, possibly raising global temperatures by 1.5° Celsius by 2050.
What are India’s challenges in lowering of GHG emissions from ruminant animals?
  • Huge population of cattle: With a livestock count of over half a billion, as per the 20th livestock census of the department of animal husbandry, India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases such as methane, which is produced by ruminant animals.
  • India’s rural economy is dependent on animal agriculture: Two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion-plus population still lives in rural parts of the country. A sizeable number is dependent on animal agriculture (i.e. dairy, poultry and fisheries).
  • Policy priority: The Indian government’s investments also prioritize animal agriculture as a livelihood option. For instance:
    • In 2018, govt launched the Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund to incentivize investment by the cooperative sector for the development of dairy infrastructure.
    • In 2020, India announced a ₹15,000-crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund.
Way Forward:
  • Transition to an economy that promotes a lifestyle and diet based on plant nutrients. Our huge population is a strain on the limited resources we have, and so depending on animal-based sources of food such as milk is a problem. Also, research by the University of Oxford indicates that a shift to a plant-based diet could free up 75% of agricultural land.
  • Raising crops only for human use may boost available food calories by up to 70%, effectively feeding 4 billion people.
  • Large investments aimed at boosting animal agriculture that will lead to climate change should be discouraged.
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