Administrator Achim Steiner today joined worldwide climate experts in calling for action following the release of a United Nations report on the devastating impacts of current land use practices on the climate.
The UN report also suggests that people change their diets by moving to more plant-based foods, the production of which requires less land and energy than the meat-based, protein-heavy diet preferred by many North Americans.
But under all scenarios, one axiom held true: the higher the temperature, the higher the risk. And as consumers of food, you and I must reflect on our own dietary choices and think twice before tossing the leftovers out.
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. It also flagged vulnerability of people in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region, encompassing parts of Pakistan, India, Nepal and China to food insecurity due to climate change.
"Eat quality food and eat low emissions food - and we have a huge march on the rest of the world in terms of our production systems".
Linda Schneider, senior programme officer of International Climate Policy at the Heinrich Boll Foundation, told AFP the report left "no doubt about the devastating impacts large-scale bioenergy and afforestation would have on water availability, biodiversity, food security (and) livelihoods".
Reducing food waste is among the report's top "response options" for addressing climate change.
Upfront investments in sustainable land management practices and technologies range from approximately US$20 to $5,000 per hectare, with a median estimated at around US$500 per hectare, the IPCC estimated. Though other global bodies too made similar observation in the past, the IPCC's findings assume significance as its report is authored by 107 leading scientists from 52 countries after assessing over 7,000 papers on various aspects of climate change and its triggering factors.
The impacts of desertification will be worse in Asia and Africa, while North and South America, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and central Asia will be more at risk of wildfire.
It is called "Climate Change and Land, an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems". Food supply stability "Climate change is really slamming the land", said World Resources Institute researcher Kelly Levin, who wasn't part of the study.
"Canadians and Canadian governments tend to think of our forests as carbon sinks rather than sources of emissions, but we know that has been false now for a couple of years", she said. "There, if you're a poor small farmer, you starve and have to sell off all your equipment, and then you're stuck".
When pressed, however, about half a dozen of the scientists raised their hands to say they've reduced their personal diets because of climate change, with one of them saying it helped him lose weight and feel healthier. But one of its most important features is serving as a call to action, experts said.
"The report highlights how much the science is still developing, especially when it comes to agricultural emissions, which again demonstrates that a prudent approach for New Zealand is needed".
And in a final twist, land degraded by agriculture is able to absorb less carbon dioxide, which instead is released as a greenhouse gas emission.
Left unchecked, climate change could imperil food security in parts of the world, putting further strain on a food system that's already stressed, Thursday's report found. Crop yields could shrink.
NPR's Allison Aubrey joins us now to talk about how our own eating habits can play into climate change.
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