Greenhouse gas emissions and water footprints of typical dietary patterns in India

Rosemary F Green (Corresponding Author), Edward J M Joy, Francesca Harris, Sutapa Agrawal, Lukasz Aleksandrowicz, Jon Hillier, Jennie I Macdiarmid, James Milner, Sylvia H Vetter, Pete Smith, Andy Haines, Alan D. Dangour

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Abstract

Agriculture is a major contributor to India's environmental footprint, particularly through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from livestock and fresh water used for irrigation. These impacts are likely to increase in future as agriculture attempts to keep pace with India's growing population and changing dietary preferences. Within India there is considerable dietary variation, and this study therefore aimed to quantify the GHG emissions and water usage associated with distinct dietary patterns. Five distinct diets were identified from the Indian Migration Study – a large adult population sample in India – using finite mixture modelling. These were defined as: Rice & low diversity, Rice & fruit, Wheat & pulses, Wheat, rice & oils, Rice & meat. The GHG emissions of each dietary pattern were quantified based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach, and water use was quantified using Water Footprint (WF) data. Mixed-effects regression models quantified differences in the environmental impacts of the dietary patterns. There was substantial variability between diets: the rice-based patterns had higher associated GHG emissions and green WFs, but the wheat-based patterns had higher blue WFs. Regression modelling showed that the Rice & meat pattern had the highest environmental impacts overall, with 0.77 (95% CI 0.64–0.89) kg CO2e/capita/day (31%) higher emissions, 536 (95% CI 449–623) L/capita/day (24%) higher green WF and 109 (95% CI 85.9–133) L/capita/day (19%) higher blue WF than the reference Rice & low diversity pattern. Diets in India are likely to become more diverse with rising incomes, moving away from patterns such as the Rice & low diversity diet. Patterns such as the Rice & meat diet may become more common, and the environmental consequences of such changes could be substantial given the size of India's population. As global environmental stress increases, agricultural and nutrition policies must recognise the environmental impacts of potential future dietary changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1418
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume643
Early online date4 Jul 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

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Keywords

  • Sustainability
  • India
  • greenhouse gas emission
  • water footprint
  • agriculture
  • dietary pattern

Cite this

Green, R. F., Joy, E. J. M., Harris, F., Agrawal, S., Aleksandrowicz, L., Hillier, J., ... Dangour, A. D. (2018). Greenhouse gas emissions and water footprints of typical dietary patterns in India. Science of the Total Environment, 643, 1411-1418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.06.258