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The global impact of food production and consumption on climate, air pollution, malnutrition and obesity

  • Published on November 29, 2022

A study presents an agricultural systems model that integrates the assessment of food consumption-related health risks, with quantification of the greenhouse gas emissions. 

The model developed by researchers shows connections between agricultural systems and 1) human health through dietary, obesity and malnutrition health risks from food consumption, 2) human health directly through exposure to air pollutants from agricultural emissions, 3) greenhouse gas emissions.

The model is open-source, and the source code is available at:




Agriculture accounts for approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is simultaneously associated with impacts on human health through food consumption, and agricultural air pollutant emissions. These impacts are often quantified separately, and there is a lack of modelling tools to facilitate integrated assessments

This work uses the modelling framework as a methodology for assessing food consumption and production. Is a open-source model and It is designed for national scale application, and comprises four main modules that characterise different aspects of agricultural systems, and the emissions associated with them, as well as a health impact assessment module. The model is applied for 2014–2018 to assess the robustness of the GHG emissions and health burden results that this integrated modelling framework produces compared to previous studies that have quantified these variables independently.

Main Modules are:

  • Agricultural Demand  quantifies the domestic production of different crops, meat and dairy products based on the calorific intake of the average population, and the proportion of that intake that is met by different products.
  • The Livestock module characterises the livestock production systems, herd structure, feed and manure systems to meet demand for meat and dairy products.
  • The Crop Production and Pastureland modules model the crop yield and pastureland productivity based on the demand for crops, silage and grass, and the nitrogen inputs to crop and pastureland based from manure, synthetic fertilisers, deposition and nitrogen fixation

These impacts are characterised based on modules. It specifically include

  • Emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases
  • Human health impacts associated with malnutrition for the proportion of the population estimated to be undernourished
  • Human health impacts associated with diets low in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fibre, nuts and seeds, and calcium, and high in red meat, and trans fatty acids,
  • Human health impacts associated with high body-mass index, and
  • Human health impacts associated with air pollutants from agricultural emissions resulting from agricultural air pollution emissions.

These impacts provide substantial opportunities to design integrated strategies that mitigate climate change, and improve human health, and also highlight possible trade-offs that the expansion of agricultural production could have due to increased emissions.


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