A leaked draft report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals that keeping global temperatures down cannot be done without a total transformation in our current food production and land management systems. It encourages adopting a plant-based diet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report, which is currently being debated in Geneva by the IPCC, argues the current climate crisis cannot be solved only by cutting emissions from transport, factories, and power plants -urging changes in the way food is produced and how land is used.
The report further says that humans now exploit 72% of the planet’s ice-free surface to feed, clothe and support Earth’s growing population. At the same time, agriculture, forestry and other land use produces almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, about half of all emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, come from cattle and rice fields, while deforestation and the removal of peat lands cause further significant levels of carbon emissions. The impact of intensive agriculture – which has helped the world’s population soar from 1.9 billion a century ago to 7.7 billion – has also increased soil erosion and reduced amounts of organic material in the ground.
Land will have to be managed far more sustainably, the IPCC finds, and a significant shift away from meat-heavy diets will need to take place to keep the warming of the globe from passing 1.5 degrees Celsius. “The consumption of healthy and sustainable diets, such as those based on coarse grains, pulses and vegetables, and nuts and seeds … presents major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the report reads.
According to the Guardian, Bob Ward, Policy Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said: “We are now getting very close to some dangerous tipping points in the behavior of the climate. “But as this latest leaked report of the IPCC’s work reveals, it is going to be very difficult to achieve the cuts we need to make to prevent that happening.”