Lab-grown meat may do more lasting damage to the climate than beef, according to a new study.
High impact: Proponents of lab-grown meat say it could one day supplant livestock—particularly cattle, a huge source of greenhouse-gas emissions.
The problem: Animal-free meat might be worse for the environment, researchers from the University of Oxford argue in a new report. They say previous studies have clumped together all emissions from cattle, rather than analyzing individual gases. Methane, for example, has a greater impact on warming in the short term, but it remains in the atmosphere for only around a decade, whereas carbon dioxide persists and accumulates for centuries, coauthor professor Raymond Pierrehumbert told the BBC. Emissions from the lab will be almost entirely made up of carbon dioxide.
A pinch of salt: It’s eye-catching, but this finding comes with plenty of caveats. Lab-grown meat isn’t even on sale to the public yet, and the researchers are making a lot of assumptions about meat consumption and future availability of lab-grown meat that may prove incorrect. For now, its climate impact may prove one of the smaller barriers to its adoption: for one thing, it’s still ridiculously expensive to produce.
This story first appeared in our newsletter The Download. Sign up here to get your daily dose of the latest in emerging tech.
Climate change and energy
Zinc batteries that offer an alternative to lithium just got a big boost
The US Department of Energy just committed a $400 million loan to battery maker Eos.
How a half-trillion dollars is transforming climate technology
Checking in with the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, one year later.
This startup has engineered a clever way to reuse waste heat from cloud computing
Heata is now using these busy servers to heat water for homes.
The US just invested more than $1 billion in carbon removal
The move represents a big step in the effort to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere—and slow down climate change.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.