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Fig 1.

Global emissions and land use footprints of animal agriculture.

Total CO2 equivalent emissions (A) assembled from species, product and country-specific production data from FAOSTAT for 2019 and species, product, region and greenhouse-gas specific emissions data from GLEAM [3], using CO2 equivalents of 34 for CH4 and 298 for N2O. Land use (B) assembled from species, product and country-specific production data from FAOSTAT for 2019 and species and product specific land use data from [12].

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Fig 2.

Impact of 15 year phaseout of animal agriculture on atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

(A) Projected annual emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O for Business as Usual (red) and PHASEPOD (green) assuming a 15 year transition to new diet and 30 year carbon recovery. (B) Projected atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4 and N2O under each emission scenario.

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Fig 3.

Phaseout of animal agriculture reduces global warming impact of the atmosphere.

Effect of eliminating emissions linked to animal agriculture and of biomass recovery on land currently used in animal agriculture on Radiative Forcing (RF), a measure of the instantaneous warming potential of the atmosphere. RF values computed from atmospheric concentrations in by formula of [30, 32] as modified in MAGICC6 [29] with adjustment for gases other than CO2, CH4 and N2O as described in text.

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Fig 4.

Impact of dietary transitions in curtailing global warming.

Using projected CH4 and N2O levels in 2100 under business as usual diet as a baseline for RF calculation, we computed the CO2 reductions necessary to reduce RF from the business as usual diet level of RF = 1.31 to the bovid-free diet level of RF = 4.09 (1300 Gt CO2), the plant-only diet level of RF = 3.83 (1680 Gt CO2), the 2.0° C global warming target of RF = 2.6 (3230 Gt CO2) and the 1.5° C global warming target of RF = 1.9 (3980 Gt CO2). For this analysis we used a corrected RF that accounts for the absence of other gases in our calculation by training a linear regression model on published MAGICC6 output to estimate from CO2, CH4 and N2O levels the residual RF impact of other gases.

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Fig 5.

Annual CO2 equivalents (aCO2eq) of dietary scenarios.

Bars show sustained reduction in annual CO2 emissions necessary to equal cumulative reduction in radiative forcing of the given scenario in 2050 (blue) and 2100 (orange).

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Fig 6.

Emission equivalents and emission intensities of livestock products.

(A) Total annualized CO2 equivalents through 2100, aCO2eq2100, for all tracked animal products, and Emission Intensities based on aCO2eq2100 on a per unit production (B) or per unit protein (C) basis. For (B) and (C) we also convert the values to driving equivalents using a value of 0.254 kg CO2eq per km driven of an internal combustion engine fueled sedan in the United States from life cycle analyses described in [36].

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Table 1.

Product-specific emissions, land use and inferred impacts.

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Fig 7.

Sensitivity of impact of phaseout of animal agriculture to model assumptions.

The grey line in each plot is PHASE-POD, the default scenario of 15 year phaseout, 30 year carbon recovery, livestock emissions from FAOSTAT, and a diverse plant replacement diet based on [26]. (A) Effect of the immediate elimination of animal agriculture (red line) or a slower, 30 year, phaseout (blue line). (B) Effect of slower carbon recovery reaching completion after 50 years (red line) or 70 years (blue line). (C) Effect of using high (green line) or low (red line) estimates of above ground carbon recovery from [1]. (D) Effect of reducing either the efficiency or extent of carbon recovery.

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Fig 8.

Projected per capita livestock production in SSP/IAM RF 1.9 scenarios.

We downloaded data for the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) [45] from the SSP database (Version 2.0; last updated December 2018), and plot here the inferred per capita livestock production for scenarios meant to reach an RF target of 1.9 in 2100. While there is widespread acknowledgement of the impact that ongoing animal agriculture has on the climate, it is notable that most of these scenarios, which represent the most aggressive proposed mitigation strategies in this modeling framework, anticipate an increase in per capita livestock consumption, and none anticipate any significant reduction below current levels, in contrast to the complete elimination we propose here.

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