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By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Efforts to reduce the effects of global warming will fall short without significant changes in global land use, agriculture and human diet, states the latest report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Climate change could affect food security for people such as this Kenyan farmer, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Climate change could affect food security for people such as this Kenyan farmer, photo by Neil Palmer (CiAT)/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

“Keeping global warming to well below 2C can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse emissions for all sectors, including land and food (production),” warns the IPCC report released today, on August 8th.

“The report shows the dangers facing humanity today of not striking a good balance between food production, CO2 mitigation, deforestation reduction and bioenergy,” Paulo Artaxo, Brazilian researcher at University of São Paulo (USP) and one of the authors of the report, told Brazilian news website, G1.

According to the report, bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes, says the report, will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems.

The IPCC report also warns that if deforestation in the Amazon reaches forty percent of the forest, it will cross an irreversible line both to stop global warming and to survive the forest cycle as it is today.

The report highlights the importance of keeping forests and green areas intact. “Agriculture, forestry and other types of land use account for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions.”

“At the same time, natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry,” stated Jim Skea, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III.

The IPCC states that it understands that food security will be increasingly affected by climate change – through decline in production yields, increased prices and supply chain disruption, but that ‘a coordinated action to address climate change can simultaneously improve land, food security and nutrition, and help to end hunger’.

“We will see different effects in different countries, but there will be more drastic impacts on low income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Priyadarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

Deforestation of tropical forests, like the Amazon, must be halted says IPCC, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Deforestation of tropical forests, like the Amazon, must be halted says IPCC, photo by Matt Zimmerman/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Although the document does not call for a reduction in meat consumption, it warns of the need for dietary diversification to reduce emissions.

“Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change,” said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group II.

This latest IPCC report counted on more than 100 authors from 52 different countries with scientists examining thousands of studies to evaluate links between climate change, food security, land degradation and desertification. Approximately 53 percent of the authors are from developing countries.

While the October 2018 IPCC report looked at the steps needed to limit global warming, this latest report focuses on how human activity is eroding the natural defenses of the earth to combat climate change.

“There is real potential here through more sustainable land use, reducing over-consumption and waste of food, eliminating the clearing and burning of forests, preventing over-harvesting of fuelwood, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping to address land related climate change issues,” concluded Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

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