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.
These three charts show who is most to blame for climate change
Getting to the bottom of which countries have contributed most to climate change is complicated, but a few pieces of data can help.
Inside Alphabet X’s new effort to combat climate change with seagrass
A previously unrevealed program would use cameras, computer vision, and machine learning to track the carbon stored in the biomass of the oceans.
Power beaming comes of age
How power beaming could change the way we power everything from satellites to mobile phones and reduce carbon emissions.
Super-hot salt could be coming to a battery near you
New battery chemistries can help unlock more renewable energy for the grid.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.