The world must turn towards healthy plant-based diets to stop climate change, a UN-backed report has warned. Our food system accounts for between 25 and 30 per cent of greenhouse gases, and is choking the life from fresh and coastal waterways with excess nitrogen. In order to feed the predicted 9.8 billion people on Earth in 2050, the world will need to produce 56 per cent more food compared to 2010. If the level of meat and dairy consumption rises in line with current food habits, six million square kilometres (2.3 million square miles) of forests would need to be converted to agriculture - an area twice the size of India. Two-thirds would be changed to pasture land, with the final third being used for crops, according to the Creating a Sustainable Food Future report.
A burst of technology in the 1960s--the Green Revolution--raised agricultural output significantly across developing economies. Since then, rising incomes have boosted protein consumption worldwide, and elevated new challenges: greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture are increasing (more than a fifth of all emissions worldwide), while a host of practices, from waste to overfishing, threaten the sustainability of food supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought these concerns to the fore: the disease has disrupted supply chains and demand, perversely increasing the amount of food waste in farms and fields while threatening food security for many. As agriculture gradually regains its footing, participants and stakeholders should be casting an eye ahead, to safeguarding food supplies against the potentially greater and more disruptive effects of climate change. Once again, innovation and advanced technologies could make a powerful contribution to secure and sustainable food production. For example, digital and biotechnologies could improve the health of ruminant livestock, requiring fewer methane-producing animals to meet the world's protein needs. Genetic technologies could play a supporting role by enabling the breeding of animals that produce less methane. Meanwhile, AI and sensors could help food processors sort better and slash waste, and other smart technologies could identify inedible by-products for reprocessing. Data and advanced analytics also could help authorities better monitor and manage the seas to limit overfishing--while enabling boat crews to target and find fish with less effort and waste.
The foods we eat and the ways we produce them damage our planet's climate. Emissions from food systems around the world are stopping us from hitting key climate change targets of lower temperatures, according to a recent report in Science. A conservative estimate by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations puts agriculture's contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions at 14.5 percent. Some experts warn those numbers are too low. They estimate that agriculture contributes to upwards of 37 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, intermingling with the largest sectors that contribute to emissions: energy, industry, and transportation. It's easy to point a finger at the massive scale of livestock or rice production, two enterprises that pump large amounts of methane into the atmosphere as a byproduct.
Almost half of the world's food production is destructive to the environment, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. By their calculations, the current farming techniques should be used to support a maximum global population of around 3.4 billion people, not the 7.7 billion that it currently does. They used a target of 2,355 kcal per person per day to calculate the idea population figures. A new study from a team of researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says that using current farming methods we should only be generating enough food for 3.4 billion people,and using them to grow more is destroying the planet'We appropriate too much land for crops and livestock, fertilize too heavily and irrigate too extensively,' lead researcher Dieter Gerten said. 'To solve this issue in the face of a still growing world population, we collectively need to rethink how to produce food.'
The recent emergence of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen that has left more than 20 million people on the brink of starvation is a reminder of the difficulty of ending hunger around the world. The problem is complex, and, unfortunately, policymakers have largely ignored an economic sector that could be a key part of the solution: small-scale livestock farming. But that may be starting to change. At a high-level United Nations meeting currently underway, several events on poverty and hunger will feature the importance of livestock. The key message of these sessions is that livestock's potential for bolstering development lies in the sheer number of rural people who already depend on the sector for their livelihoods.