GENEVA — The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Thursday recommended sweeping changes globally in food consumption and land use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 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 written mostly by authors from developing nations, points out how overconsumption and ill treatment 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,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.
A report from IPCC in 2014 determined that agriculture, forestry and other land uses caused nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. 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.”
🌍 IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land:
— IPCC (@IPCC_CH) August 8, 2019
Land use key to Paris goals
Last December, almost 200 nations adopted a rulebook for accomplishing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees C. if possible.
The Paris deal’s goals can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food, the IPCC said.
Though the panel stopped short of telling people how they should eat, it made clear that less meat consumption from industrial-scale farming would help fight climate change and bring human health benefits.
Animal products generally have a larger “water footprint” than crop products, according to The Netherlands-based Water Footprint Network. The average water footprint of beef production is 15,415 liters of water per kilogram of beef, it says, nearly 50 times greater than the 322 liters of water per kilogram of vegetables.
“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. “At the same time, natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry.”