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Potential Changes in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Refrigerated Supply Chain Introduction in a Developing Food System

Heard, Brent R., Miller, Shelie A.
Environmental science & technology 2018 v.53 no.1 pp. 251-260
cold, diet, energy, environmental impact, food loss, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, models, refrigeration, supply chain, Europe, North America, Sub-Saharan Africa
Refrigeration transforms developing food systems, changing the dynamics of production and consumption. This study models the introduction of an integrated refrigerated supply chain, or “cold chain,” into sub-Saharan Africa and estimates changes in preretail greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if the cold chain develops similarly to North America or Europe. Refrigeration presents an important and understudied trade-off: the ability to reduce food losses and their associated environmental impacts, but increasing energy use and creating GHG emissions. It is estimated that postharvest emissions added from cold chain operation are larger than food loss emissions avoided, by 10% in the North American scenario and 2% in the European scenario. The cold chain also enables changes in agricultural production and diets. Connected agricultural production changes decrease emissions, while dietary shifts facilitated by refrigeration may increase emissions. These system-wide changes brought about by the cold chain may increase the embodied emissions of food supplied to retail by 10% or decrease them by 15%, depending on the scenario.