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World’s food supply at risk due to climate change, window to act rapidly closing: UN

The report said measures such as reduction in food wastage, sustainable agriculture practices and shifting of dietary preferences to include more plant-based food rather than animal-based could avoid a part of these emissions without jeopardising food security.

Harvesting in Xinjiang, northwest China. (Reuters)

The process of producing food and making it available to everyone could be contributing over a quarter of the global emissions of greenhouse gases every year, a major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said.

The report said measures such as reduction in food wastage, sustainable agriculture practices and shifting of dietary preferences to include more plant-based food rather than animal-based could avoid a part of these emissions without jeopardising food security. Annual emissions of greenhouse gases were estimated to be about 49 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Explained

Land both a source and sink of carbon

Land use and changes in land use have been an integral part of the conversation on climate change. That is because land acts as both the source as well as a sink of carbon. Land-based activities such as agriculture and forestry are sources of greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the soil, trees and vegetation also absorb carbon dioxide, thus acting as carbon sinks. This is the reason why largescale land use changes, like deforestation or urbanisation, or even a change in cropping pattern, have a direct impact on the overall emissions of greenhouse gases

At the same time, global food supply was also under threat due to climate change, it says. “Climate change has already affected food security due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events,” it says.

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The new report on ‘Climate Change and Land’, released on Thursday afternoon, is an assessment of how land systems are contributing to global warming, and are in turn being impacted by the resultant climate change. It is the second in the series of special focused reports that IPCC has been preparing at the specific request of governments and other organisations.

The report looks at the role of land-based activities such as agriculture, forestry, cattle-rearing and urbanisation in causing global warming, and also the manner in which they are impacted by climate change.

The report says the global food production system could account for 16 to 27 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If outside the “farm gate” activities such as transportation, energy and food processing industries are included, emissions from global activities that put the food on our table could account for as high as 37 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

“If emissions associated with pre- and post-production activities in the global food system are included, the emissions are estimated to be 21 to 37 per cent of total net anthropogenic (man-made) GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,” the report states.

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It also says over a quarter of the food produced is either lost or wasted. Even in its decomposition, it releases emissions. “During 2010 and 2016, global food loss and waste contributed 8 to 10 per cent of total anthropogenic (man-made) GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,” it says.

The report says the global rise in temperature has been much faster over land than over the entire planet. The mean land surface air temperature in the period 2006 to 2015 was about 1.53 degree Celsius above the average of pre-industrial period of 1850 to 1900. During the same time the global mean surface temperature, that accounts both the land as well as the oceans, was higher only by 0.87 degree Celsius.

This additional warming over land could have led to increased frequency, intensity and duration of heat-related events such as heat waves across the world.

Some key points from the report

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# The global food production system could account for 16 to 27 per cent of GHG emissions — up to 37 per cent, if factors such as transportation and food processing are included.

# The global rise in temperature has been much faster over land than over the entire planet.
# This additional warming over land could have led to increased frequency, intensity and duration of heat-related events such as heat waves.
# Measures such as reduction in food wastage, sustainable agriculture practices and shifting of dietary preferences.to include more plant-based food could reduce emissions without jeopardising food security.

Full report on www.indianexpress.com

First published on: 09-08-2019 at 01:28:31 am
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