Monday, 19 August, 2019

Countries should ensure sustainable land use

Harvesting in Xinjiang northwest China Harvesting in Xinjiang northwest China
Sandra Phillips | 12 August, 2019, 00:26

With two billion more mouths to feed by mid-century, it can not simply be scaled up without pushing Earth's thermometer deep into the red zone, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "special report".

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says agriculture, forestry and other land uses produce almost half of the world's methane emissions, a greenhouse gas that also comes from cows.

It highlighted an increased risk of crop vulnerability, land degradation and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change, with women, children and the elderly at most immediate risk.

The IPCC sprung to global attention in 2018 with its assessment on how to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit), as aimed for in the Paris climate deal. Natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to nearly a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry. Irrigated cropland used about 1% of the world's ice-free land area (130 million square kilometers, or more than 50 million square miles), while another 12% of total ice-free land is used for non-irrigated crops.

However, the report is not all bad news and finds that if more of the world's population shifts toward plant-based diets and reduces their meat consumption, it could significantly boost the planet's ability to fight climate change.

If people change their diets by reducing red meat and increasing plant-based foods, the world can save as much as another 15 per cent of current emissions by mid-century, Ms Rosenzweig said.

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The special report also said that 25-30% of all food produced is lost or wasted, contributing more greenhouse gases.

At the same time, global food supply was also under threat due to climate change, it says. Though it hasn't come out with country-specific data, the IPCC scientists referred to various regional scientific studies which spoke about impact of climate change on food security in the form of less yield and price rise. The scientists say it's contributing to global warming.

"We also need social security systems for these farmers".

The panel stressed that it's essential that policy-makers keep this in mind when considering how they should invest, adapt to, and try to mitigate the effects of climate change. But one of its most important features is serving as a call to action, experts said.

It spelled out the need for drastic greenhouse gas emissions cuts achieved partly by a near-immediate fall in fossil fuel consumption.

Marta Rivera-Ferre, one of the report's lead authors and a food systems researcher at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia in Spain, told SciDev.Net: "Women, even though in developing countries they have a big role in farming, have less access to land and less decision-making power. The people likely to be most affected live in Africa and South Asia, with almost 48 million residing in India alone", said the report. Changing our relationship with the land is a vital part of limiting climate change, " it said.

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