Advertisements

It’s a Moment of Reckoning For How We Use the Planet to Halt Climate Change, Warns U.N. Report  

1.jpg

Aerial view of the Transamazonica Road (BR-230) near Medicilandia, Para State, Brazil on March 13, 2019. – According to the NGO Imazon, deforestation in the Amazonia increased in a 54% in January, 2019 -the first month of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s term- compared to the same month of 2018. MAURO PIMENTEL—AFP/Getty Images

The human relationship with the land we live on has evolved over the hundreds of thousands of years humans have roamed the planet, but no period has seen as dramatic change as the last century when humans used land in new ways to extract wealth and build a modern economy.

Now, a landmark new U.N. report warns, humans face a moment of reckoning on how we use the planet’s land: human practices like deforestation threaten to undermine the role nature has played soaking up carbon dioxide emissions for more than a century. At the same time, climate change could threaten our ability to use the land, risking food security and vulnerable communities at risk of extreme weather.

“As we’ve continued to pour more and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Earth’s system has responded and it’s continued to absorb more and more,” says Louis Verchot, a lead study author and scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. But “this additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever.”

Today, emissions from land use — think of practices like agriculture and logging — cause nearly a quarter of human induced greenhouse emissions, according to the report, authored by scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. climate science body.

Still, land elsewhere on the planet has balanced the effects of those emissions. In recent years, forests, wetlands and other land systems have soaked up 11.2 gigatonnes more carbon dioxide than they have emitted on an annual basis. That’s a greater quantity of carbon dioxide than released by the world’s coal-fired power plants in a given year. But a slew of human practices including deforestation, soil degradation and the destruction of land-based ecosystems threaten to halt that trend, potentially driving land to release more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.

Climate advocates billed the report as a wakeup call. Much of the attention around addressing climate change has focused on shifting the global energy system, but to keep warming at bay will require nature-based solutions that consider how humans use land, climate scientists say.

The report — at more than 1,300 pages in length — lays out a number of opportunties to use land to reverse the trend. And many of the solutions are already at hand, if governments have the wherewithal to implement them. “We don’t have to wait for some sort of new technological innovation,” says study author Pamela McElwee, an associate professor of human ecology at Rutgers University. “But what some of these solutions do require is attention, financial support, enabling environments.”

Significantly reducing deforestation while increasing the rates of restoring forests ranks among the most urgent solutions in order to retain any hope of keeping temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels by the end of the century. Reducing deforestation alone can stop annual emissions equivalent to twice those of India’s, scientists found.

The report also highlights how emissions from agriculture contribute significantly to climate change, and the opportunity to address it by rethinking diets. As global demand for food has grown, food producers have converted forests into agricultural land, leading to a release of carbon dioxide stored in trees. At the same time, more than a quarter of food goes to waste, according to the report.

With those trends in mind, scientists say a shift away from eating meat toward plant-based diets could yield big dividends in the fight against climate change. Reduced meat consumption means lower emissions from livestock and the fertilizer needed to sustain them but also provides an opportunity to reforest land that farmers would have otherwise used for grazing. Rethinking the human diet across the globe could drive emissions reductions of up to 8 gigatonnes annually, according to the report, greater than an entire year of emissions in the U.S.

But, while these changes are technically feasible, there are a number of barriers to adoption. To achieve the greatest emissions reductions by shifting diets would require most of the world to go vegan, for instance, requiring a fight against entrenched agricultural interests and cultural preferences.

And despite year’s of research underscoring the threat of deforestation the practice has worsened in some of the most critical areas. In recent years, deforestation has accelerated in the Amazon rain forest in both Brazil and Colombia, with a recent report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research showing that the practice had increased 40% in the previous two months compared with the same period the year prior.

The new IPCC report comes less than a year after the body’s 2018 report on the dire effects of 1.5°C of warming, which warned that climate change will bring catastrophic levels at even that level of warming. In its wake, students walked out of school across the globe, some governments committed to reducing their emissions and activists in the U.S rallied for a Green New Deal, all citing the report’s impact.

Much like last year’s, the new IPCC report highlights a number of shocking risks. The surface temperature on land has already warmed more than 1.5°C since the beginning of the industrial era, and continued warming threatens to cause a slew of extreme weather events while threatening food security and other essentials required for human life. Whether this report can inspire a similar wave of action remains to be seen.

By Justin Worland

Source: It’s a Moment of Reckoning For How We Use the Planet to Halt Climate Change, Warns U.N. Report  

Advertisements

How Eating Less Meat Could Help Protect the Planet From Climate Change

A view of herd of cows grazing in the valley of Campo Imperatore. Abruzzo. Italy. Europe. (Photo by: Daniele Orsi/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

By dramatically changing the food we eat as well as the way it is grown and produced, humans can help stop the devastating impacts of climate change according to the latest report by the United Nations body on climate science.

More than 100 scientists from 52 countries put together the report, which was published by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It takes a look at how land-use practices have impacted the planet and finds that deforestation, agriculture and other human activities threaten the world’s ability to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees celsius, the goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

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.

“Some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others,” Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, said in a statement on Thursday.

The IPCC report says that if people eat more plant-based foods and sustainably produced foods from animals, that will “present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.”

Go Inside the Lavish Cat Fashion Show that Puts Felines on Fashion’s Front Lines
Trump Says He Would Like to See Colin Kaepernick Back at NFL If “He Is Good Enough”

Much of the world already eats very little meat, notes Timothy Searchinger, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute. Only about 25% of the world, mostly wealthy countries such as the United States, eat lots of meat, he says. But as countries with historically low meat consumption get wealthier, they will eat more meat and put even more strain on the environment — unless something changes.

“The big beef eaters need to eat less,” Searchinger says.

Meat such as beef and lamb is particularly inefficient to produce, because livestock need lots of space to graze, and that land is often space that used to be covered with forests. Lowering the amount of meat people eat would also decrease emissions from livestock and the amount of fertilizer raising them requires.

Adopting these kinds of changes for people around the world could free up several million square kilometers of land and reduce carbon emissions by up to 8 gigatonnes annually by 2050, according to the report. Food waste is also a major issue, with more than one quarter of food going to waste right now.

Not only do humans need to reduce the amount of land used to produce meat, but they also need to use that land more efficiently. Sustainable farming practices are necessary to ensure that land remains usable as the planet heats up.

This is particularly important because the report raises serious concerns about how climate change will harm food security. Parts of Africa, high mountain regions of Asia and South America are already experiencing these issues, according to the report.

“Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines — especially in the tropics — increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions,” said Priyadarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The countries that are likely to be most severely impacted by climate change are often low-income places that have not been the leading contributors to global warming, researchers said. Farmers in these places will have to adapt to more intense weather patterns, droughts and floods, as well as their land decreasing in yield.

Searchinger says this will require global help, from agronomic improvements to economic investments in communities experiencing food insecurity.

“We also need social security systems for these farmers. We have social security systems so relatively few people starve here,” he said. “There, if you’re a poor small farmer, you starve and have to sell off all your equipment, and then you’re stuck.”

The IPCC report offers some ideas about how to mitigate the impact that agriculture has on climate change and how to help vulnerable areas keep producing food. But one of its most important features is serving as a call to action, experts said.

“I’m thrilled to see the IPCC making some bold statements on the need to focus on land, food and agriculture,” Ruth Richardson, executive director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, told TIME. “It’s so important because food and agriculture systems are a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, so they’re a part of the problem and yet they’re also a critical part of the solution.”

There are plenty of obstacles to adopting the report’s suggestions around food. Not every country is going to stop eating meat, of course, but Searchinger of the World Resources Institute points to the rise in popularity of meatless products such as the Impossible Burger as a promising sign. He hopes that when the public and politicians see reports like this one they remember that food and agriculture are key factors in the fight against climate change.

“When people think about solving climate change and what governments can do, they have to think about agriculture,” he said.

By Abigail Abrams

Source: How Eating Less Meat Could Help Protect the Planet From Climate Change

%d bloggers like this:
Skip to toolbar