Climate change threatens global food security

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SINGAPORE; Climate change and poor management practices threaten the world’s farmlands and food security, the UN said on Thursday in a major report. Deforestation, loss of peatlands, mangroves and grasslands for large-scale agriculture are degrading life-giving soils that humanity needs to feed and clothe itself, cutting yields, threatening the food supplies for millions of people and risking mass migration. Such large-scale damage to the environment is making the land more vulnerable to risks from more extreme weather which, in turn is fuelling more severe temperature and rainfall changes locally in a vicious circle, the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds.
The far-reaching study by more than 100 authors from 52 countries was finalised on Wednesday in Geneva after nearly a week of negotiations between scientists and policy-makers from 195 countries. The authors examined thousands of studies over almost three years to better assess the links between climate change, food security, land degradation and desertification, which is the process of land degradation in dry land areas.
The report is a vital guide for governments as climate change risks grow in a world where the population is heading for 10 billion people by mid-century, threatening to place even greater strains on the planet’s limited resources. The IPCC last October looked at the steps needed to limit global warming to 1.5 deg C, a key goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. It concluded that deep emission cuts are needed before 2030 to achieve this.
While last year’s report looked at the sources of emissions, this year the focus is on how human activity is eroding the planet’s natural defences to climate change. The report says Earth’s land surface area is a key part of the solution to reducing the risks from climate change. The land, from tropical forests and peatlands to desert grasslands, soak up large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. It is part of a natural cycle in which carbon is produced and recycled by plants on land and organisms in the oceans as a way to regulate the climate.
But large-scale burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, as well as clearing and burning forests, has disrupted the natural order, leading to ever greater amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) that nature can no longer absorb, fuelling a warming world. The IPCC said the land should be part of any global effort to keep the world from overheating. But keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food, the IPCC says.
The report finds that there are many solutions to reduce the impacts on farmlands, including switching to less intensive farming, ecosystem conservation and land restoration, reduced deforestation, cutting food waste and switching to climate-friendly diets. It says coordinated action to address climate change can simultaneously improve land, food security and nutrition, and help to end hunger.
During a press conference on Thursday Dr Valerie Masson-Delmotte stressed the need for early action. She said, it takes time for ecosystems, soils and trees to take up carbon, so early action gives more benefits. It also takes time for education, capacity building and training, so the practices are learnt and can be implemented. These reasons are why early action is particularly important in the land sector. Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines -especially in the tropics – increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions.

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