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Climate experts say people should move towards plant-based diets

Today’s climate report says that a shift in land use is crucial to tackling climate change.

Image: DPA/PA Images

THE WORLD MUST shift how it produces food in order to tackle climate change, a United Nations body has warned. 

A report published today by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that humans must manage land better in order to avoid food insecurity and the worst impacts of climate change into the future as well address personal dietary choices.  

One recommendation from the IPCC is for humans to move towards more balanced diets of plant-based foods such as grains and nuts. 

Today’s report notes that climate change has accelerated land degradation, caused deserts to expand and made forests more vulnerable to drought, fire, pests and disease. 

Around 70% of the world’s ice-free land is now affected by human activity, however, and human activities like farming and growing crops accelerate these issues, the report notes.  

Land is also a source of greenhouse gases, with agriculture, forestry and other activities accounting for 24% of man-made emissions.

Our land has already absorbed as much as 29% of mankind’s CO2 emissions in the decade up to 2016. As temperatures rise across the globe, there are fears that absorption rates of CO2 will slow. 

The report, which was complied over two years by 107 scientists in 52 countries, has warned that failure to act rapidly on reducing land degradation, food waste and agriculture’s carbon footprint could challenge food systems and undermine efforts to head off global warming. 

Agriculture, food production and deforestation continue to be major drivers of climate change, the report notes, adding that coordinated action to tackle climate change can improve land, food security and nutrition into the future.

‘Land management’

Today’s report examines ecological issues including greenhouse gas fluxes related to land, interactions between climate change and desertification, land degradation and food security.

“The land that we already use could feed the world in a changing climate and provide biomass for renewable energy,” the report notes. “But it would require early, far-reaching actions across several fronts.”

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2014, found that agriculture, forestry and other land use was the source of 24% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.

“The way we use land is both part of the problem and also part of the solution,” Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist who co-chairs one of the panel’s working groups said. “Sustainable land management can help secure a future that is comfortable.”

In a statement today, Aditi Sen, Oxfam’s senior climate policy advisor, said: “Land is central to the fight against the climate crisis and hunger. Industrial agriculture, deforestation and increasing weather shocks are destroying the land we depend on for food, with the world’s poorest hit hardest.”

Sen has called for an end to “destructive industrial agriculture and invest in agro-ecological approaches that store carbon, improve soil health and increase yields.”

“Governments must also invest in smallholder farmers and uphold the rights of people to their land and forests, so that poor communities on the frontline of the climate crisis are able to feed themselves now and in the future.”

“Politicians must aim for zero hunger as well as zero emissions. They must reject false solutions that divert land away from growing food and into producing crops and trees for energy and carbon capture.”

IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said: “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.”

- with reporting from Associated Press

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