U.N. report warns climate change threatens global food security

By Clyde Hughes
A farmer checks corn in his field in Mehdiabad village in Qazvin province, near Tehran, Iran. File Photo by Mohammad Kheirkhah/UPI
A farmer checks corn in his field in Mehdiabad village in Qazvin province, near Tehran, Iran. File Photo by Mohammad Kheirkhah/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 8 (UPI) -- A United Nations panel on climate change said in a new report Thursday humans risk a worldwide crisis if they don't improve the way they use land to produce sufficient amounts of food.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report details the chief threats of climate change and says there are ways humans can better use land to make a dent in global hunger.


The IPCC is the world body for assessing the state of scientific knowledge for climate change, future risks and potential solutions. It outlined the Special Report on Climate Change and Land at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases and the negative impacts of climate change on vegetation increase," the analysis states. "This means there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation.

"It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively. Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems."


The effects of climate change have been observed for years, experts say, and are reflected in occurrences like weather. Many regions have experienced heat waves this year, including recently much of Europe and Japan, a record amount of ice has melted in Greenland, large wildfires have charred the landscape of eastern Russia and record floods have saturated the U.S. Midwest.

"New knowledge shows an increase in risks from dryland water scarcity, fire damage, permafrost degradation and food system instability, even for global warming of around 1.5 degrees Celsius," IPCC co-chair Valerie Masson-Delmotte said.

"Very high risks related to permafrost degradation and food system instability are identified at 2 degrees Celsius of global warming."

Kiyoto Tanabe, co-chair of the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, said sustainable land management decisions could limit or reverse some impacts of climate change -- but adds that alone may not be enough.

"In a future with more intensive rainfall the risk of soil erosion on croplands increases, and sustainable land management is a way to protect communities from the detrimental impacts of this soil erosion and landslides," he said. "However, there are limits to what can be done, so in other cases degradation might be irreversible."


Thursday's report also suggested ways to cut out food waste, prevent over-harvesting of fuelwood, end deforestation and use plant-based foods to slow greenhouse gas emissions from food production.

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