Extensive land uses to meet dietary preferences incur a ‘carbon opportunity cost’ given the potential for carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration. Here we map the magnitude of this opportunity, finding that shifts in global food production to plant-based diets by 2050 could lead to sequestration of 332–547 GtCO2, equivalent to 99–163% of the CO2 emissions budget consistent with a 66% chance of limiting warming to 1.5 °C.
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Geospatial data for land-use area and carbon opportunity costs are available via the NYU Faculty Data Archive Spatial Data Repository, accessible online at https://doi.org/10.17609/q5pe-7r68.
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We thank S. Davis, W. R. Moomaw, J. S. Gerber and L. L. Sloat for their helpful comments.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Hayek, M.N., Harwatt, H., Ripple, W.J. et al. The carbon opportunity cost of animal-sourced food production on land. Nat Sustain 4, 21–24 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-00603-4