UN Says Meat Production Destroys Land and Water Sources

A view of herd of cows grazing in the valley of Campo Imperatore in Abruzzo Italy. Agriculture has a role to play in helping combat climate change according to a new U.N. report

The food supply is at dire risk, U.N. experts say

In a special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F), as governments agreed in 2015, could be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including land and food. "The IPCC does not recommend people's diets". Here's Valerie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of one of the IPCC's working groups. But the IPCC also laid out an optimistic scenario with farmers growing enough food for everybody on existing land, doing it more efficiently with lower greenhouse emissions. This adds to the impact of global warming, the report states, with land areas having warmed twice as much as the global average surface temperature - which includes oceans - and deforested land likely to be even hotter.

"Other steps we can take would involve changing our collective diets to be environmentally ethical (avoiding mass produced, resource intensive and land pollutant foods such as avocados, palm oil and red meat), protect natural habitats and prevent largescale natural destruction (like in the Amazon rainforest), improve crop varieties and engage in ago-forestry (instead of cutting down forests to farm)". The report also suggests a number of land management options and a wide range of adaptation and mitigation responses that contribute to sustainable future development.

A reduced meat production is needed to lower emissions from livestock: now, half of the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane come from livestock - and rice fields.

"The risk of deforestation and land degradation to food security has increased..." Climate change will worsen the impact of soil loss, the report said. In India's case, it noted that the warming has reduced wheat yields by 5.2% from 1981 to 2009. Lowering the amount of meat people eat would also decrease emissions from livestock and the amount of fertilizer raising them requires. Other scientific studies, referred to by the IPCC, noted how increasing concentrations of atmospheric Carbon dioxide lower content of zinc and other nutrients in 31 important food crops.

The planet's ability to feed humanity is being threatened by the increasing use of land and water resources, according to a report from the U.N.'s top panel of scientists that released on Thursday.

"What we have here is just incredibly moralistic judgement about the way human beings live, dressed up in the language of battling climate change", he told talkRADIO's Julia Hartley-Brewer.

The UN report will be a key scientific input into forthcoming climate and environment negotiations, such as the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14) in New Delhi in September, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Santiago, Chile, in December. Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its water bodies as well as vegetation and wildlife.

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