Food Production Methods Must Be Changed In Order To Save Planet From Current Climate Crisis, IPCC Study Finds

Dairy cows eat after being milked at Kelsay and Son dairy farm on July 20, 2012 near Whiteland, Indiana.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

A leaked report compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is currently being discussed by climate change experts in Geneva has found that in order to cut carbon emissions enough to potentially save the planet from the current climate crisis, we must focus on changing the way we produce food, reported The Guardian.

Currently, about half of all methane gas emissions — one of the worst greenhouse gases contributing to climate change — is released from cattle and rice fields. The report makes salient that it is no longer effective to focus solely on cutting emissions from cars, factories, and power plants, and that refusing to also make changes to agriculture practices will make these efforts futile.

In addition to cattle production, human exploitation of the Earth releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Agriculture, forestry, and other land use produce about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions as humans now exploit around 72 percent of the planet’s ice-free surface.

The report outlines the specific problems that will only get worse if not immediately addressed.

“Climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, wind, sea-level rise and wave action.”

The IPCC has warned that a global temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 will almost certainly cause climate destabilization that will have dangerous consequences for the survival of life on the planet. However, just in July of this year, global temperatures have risen 1.2 Celsius above pre-industrial levels and the severe heatwaves that passed through Europe during July were between 1.5 and 3 degrees Celsius higher because of climate change.

These troubling numbers have made the IPCC’s message even more critical. The organization proposes managing land in a more sustainable way to avoid releasing as much carbon as we do now. It also suggests reducing meat consumption and food waste and specifically pushes the adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets.

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“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.”

Also important is the implementation of policies that improve access to markets, empower women farmers, and expand access to agricultural services while strengthening land tenure security.

“Early warning systems for weather, crop yields, and seasonal climate events are also critical.”

The outlook on whether politicians and scientists will be able to reach the goals set forward by the IPCC in terms of achieving effective zero-carbon emission policies is bleak, especially considering how little time the planet still has left.