The World of International Organizations Explained

Climate report urges change in human diet

A field of wheat in Germany (ARÊTE/Dmitry Kalinin)

GENEVA — The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Thursday recommended sweeping changes globally in how people eat and ways that land is used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the planet to overheat.

The Nobel-prize winning IPCC, whose work synthesizes the findings from thousands of scientists and scientific papers, detailed its recommendations in a new special report on the intersection between the climate crisis and poor land use.

The report, written by more than 100 scientists and the first from IPCC in which the majority of the authors are from developing nations, points out how overconsumption and poor use of animals, forests and plants is making global warming worse.

“I hope this report will raise awareness among all people about the threats and opportunities posed by climate change to the land we live on and which feeds us,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said in a statement.

A report from IPCC in 2014 determined that agriculture, forestry and other land use was the source of nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.

By changing the way people eat, land degradation and desertification could be eased, the scientists said. More sustainable land use would, in turn, add stability to the world’s food supply.

“The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases,” the panel said in its new report. “Currently 25 to 30 percent of total food produced is lost or wasted.”

Land use key to Paris goals

Last December, almost 200 nations adopted a rulebook for accomplishing the 2015 Paris Agreement that sets out how nations must report their carbon emissions and pay for climate action. The Paris deal aims to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees C. if possible.

Land is already under growing human pressure and climate change is adding to these pressures, the IPCC said in its report, adding that the Paris deal’s goals can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food.

Though the panel stopped short of telling people how they should eat, it makes clear that there are benefits for climate and human health from less meat consumption, which depends on industrial-scale farming and heavy use of natural resources.

“Land plays an important role in the climate system,” said Jim Skea, a Scottish scientist who co-chaired an IPCC working group.

“Agriculture, forestry and other types of land use account for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions,” he said in a statement. “At the same time natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry.”

The world of international organizations explained.

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