A massive global reduction in meat consumption is needed if we are to avert climate crisis, says a major new study.
The research, published in the journal Nature, describes the food system as 'a major driver of climate change', and analyzes different options of reducing its impact - including shifting towards a more plant-based diet, flexitarian diet.
In order to keep the temperature increase at under 2C (though scientists say we must keep it below 1.5C) on average, globally, people must eat 75 percent less beef, 90 percent less pork and 50 percent eggs - replacing them with legumes and nuts. In the US and UK, that becomes a 90 percent reduction in beef.
If changes aren't made to mitigate the current damage wreaked by the food system, its impact will worsen as the global population grows,
"It is pretty shocking," Marco Springmann, at the University of Oxford and lead researcher, said. "We are really risking the sustainability of the whole system. If we are interested in people being able to farm and eat, then we better not do that."
Researchers added that it will be possible to feed a global population of 10 billion - but only if changes are made to the way we farm and eat.
"Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today," said researcher Professor Johan Rockström at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
This new data comes hot on the heels of a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday, saying we have 12 years to stop the current pace of climate change - before it increases by 1.5C.
The research, by leading global scientists, warned this increase in temperature will lead to overheating, flooding, and other extreme weather conditions which will have dire impacts on humanity.
A list of changes people can implement to stop this temperature increase includes moving away from land-intensive animal products, electrifying transport and developing 'green infrastructure' such as building green roofs.