The study was conducted on the example of the UK and considered two possible scenarios. The first involves the conversion of all pastures and arable land used for the production of animal feed into forest. In the second case, all pastures are turned into forests, and arable land is used to grow local fruits and vegetables only for human consumption.
The researchers found that in the first scenario, the UK could offset its CO2 emissions in 12 years. In the second – for 9 years. Both scenarios will provide enough protein and calories for every person living in the UK, helping to improve food security. The study notes that reforestation of land used to raise farm animals could also help the UK produce plant-based protein such as beans and grow more fruits and vegetables.
How reforestation benefits the environment
According to a study published in The Lancet earlier this year, animal husbandry is resource-intensive and climate-damaging, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.
A plant-based or vegan diet is not only good for the planet, but it can support a growing population that will reach 2025 billion by 10. “Even a small increase in red meat or dairy consumption would make this goal difficult or impossible to achieve,” the report says.
A previous Oxford University study found that if everyone in the world became vegetarian, land use would be reduced by 75%, which would limit climate change and allow for a more sustainable food system.
According to the Harvard study, both scenarios would allow the UK to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement. The study highlights the need for “drastic action, far beyond what is currently planned” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The transition to replacing livestock with forests will also provide local wildlife with a new home, allowing populations and ecosystems to thrive.