Moving livestock toward a more sustainable future

The Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Environmental Resources and Developments (ERD) research group upgraded the livestock module of the IIASA model GLOBIOM to make it the state-of-the-art global economic model in terms of livestock sector representation.

© Filipefrazao84 | Dreamstime

© Filipefrazao84 | Dreamstime

Livestock are the source of 33% of the protein in human diets, utilize 30% of the global land area, and are responsible for about 12% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Researchers in ERD collaborated with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia to update GLOBIOM to make it the state-of-the-art global economic model in terms of livestock sector representation [1].

Two studies investigating the GHG mitigation potential of, on the one hand, livestock systems transitions at global scale [2], and on the other hand, grassland intensification in Brazil [3], were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

The role of the livestock sector in the sustainable development of Africa was the focus of a report commissioned by the US Agency for International Development, co-funded by the AnimalChange project of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme, and produced by the office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Food Security. This report represents direct input in the policy process regarding livestock sector in African countries [4].

Finally, the potential of livestock sector to buffer climate change impacts and contribute to the agricultural sector adaptation was produced for the Food and Agriculture Programme of the UN [5].

Figure 1. Change in ruminant numbers from 2000 to 2030 and total annual GHG emissions from agriculture and land use change over the period 2010–2030 globally and by region for different scenarios of livestock future. (Source: [5]) (click on image to enlarge).


[1] Msangi, S., Enahoro, D., Herrero, M., Magnan, N., Havlík, P., Notenbaert, A., and Nelgen, S. (2014). Integrating livestock feeds and production systems into agricultural multi-market models: The example of IMPACT. Food Policy (in press). DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2014.10.002

[2] Havlík P, Valin H, Herrero M, Obersteiner M, Schmid E, Rufino MC, Mosnier A, Thornton PK, Böttcher H, Conant RT, Frank S, Fritz S, Fuss S, Kraxner F, Notenbaert A (2014). Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions. Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences 111:3709-3714. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308044111.

[3] Cohn AS, Mosnier A, Havlík P, Valin H, Herrero M, Schmid E, O’Hare M, Obersteiner M (2014). Cattle ranching intensification in Brazil can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by sparing land from deforestation. Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences 111:7236-7241.

[4] Herrero, M., Havlik, P., McIntire, J., Palazzo, A. and Valin, H (2014). African Livestock Futures: Realizing the Potential of Livestock for Food Security, Poverty Reduction and the Environment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition and the United Nations System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC), Geneva, Switzerland, 118pp.

[5] Havlík, P, Leclère D, Valin H, Herrero M, Schmid E, Soussana J-F, Müller C, Obersteiner M (2015). Global climate change, food supply and livestock production systems: A bioeconomic analysis In: Elbehri, A (editor), Climate change and food systems: Global assessments and implications for food security and trade. Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, 2015 (forthcoming).


Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Austria

The French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), France

The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research: Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany

Colorado State University, USA University of California, Berkeley, USA

Print this page

Last edited: 28 April 2015


Petr Havlik

Research Group Leader and Principal Research Scholar

Integrated Biosphere Futures Research Group

Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 511

Further information



Livestock Production Scenarios (AnimalChange)

Options feature article

The GLOBIOM model

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313