Headline : Food supply is at dire risk: UN
- IPCC has released a new report on Climate Change and Land. It is the second in the series of three special reports that the IPCC is preparing during the current Sixth Assessment Report cycle.
- This is the first IPCC report in which a majority of the authors (53%) are from developing countries.
- The IPCC has released the summary of its report “Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems” to the policymakers.
- It is an assessment of how land systems are contributing to global warming, and are in turn being impacted by the resultant climate change.
- The report looks at the role of land-based activities such as agriculture, forestry, cattle-rearing and urbanisation in causing global warming, and also the manner in which they are impacted by climate change.
Land – a critical resource
- Land provides the principal basis for human livelihoods and well-being including the supply of food, freshwater and multiple other ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity.
- Human use directly affects more than 70% of the global, ice-free land surface (high confidence). Land also plays an important role in the climate system.
- Land is both a source and a sink of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and plays a key role in the exchange of energy, water and aerosols between the land surface and atmosphere.
- The report says the global food production system could account for 16 to 27 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- If outside the “farm gate” activities such as transportation, energy and food processing industries are included, emissions from global activities that put the food on our table could account for as high as 37 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
- If emissions associated with pre- and post-production activities in the global food system are included, the emissions are estimated to be 21 to 37 per cent of total net anthropogenic (man-made) GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.
Desertification and land degradation
- When land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon.
- This exacerbates climate change, while climate change in turn exacerbates land degradation in many different ways.
- In a future with more intensive rainfall the risk of soil erosion on croplands increases.
- Sustainable land management is a way to protect communities from the detrimental impacts of this soil erosion and landslides. However there are limits to what can be done, so in other cases degradation might be irreversible
- The report highlights that climate change is affecting all four pillars of food security: availability (yield and production), access (prices and ability to obtain food), utilization (nutrition and cooking), and stability (disruptions to availability).
- 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,”
- The effects are different in different countries, but there will be more drastic impacts on low-income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean
Measures needed for improvement:
- Food wastage: The report records that about one third of food produced is lost or wasted. Measures such as reduction in food wastage can avoid a part of these emissions without jeopardising food security.
- Risk management: Risk management can enhance communities’ resilience to extreme events, which has an impact on food systems. This can be the result of dietary changes or ensuring a variety of crops to prevent further land degradation and increase resilience to extreme or varying weather.
- Reducing inequities: Reducing inequalities, improving incomes, and ensuring equitable access to food so that some regions (where land cannot provide adequate food) are not disadvantaged, are other ways to adapt to the negative effects of climate change.
- Sustainability: An overall focus on sustainability coupled with early action offers the best chances to tackle climate change. This would entail sustainable agricultural practices, low population growth and improved nutrition.
- Bioenergy management: 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.
Steps beyond land management
- The report shows that better land management can contribute to tackling climate change, but is not the only solution.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential if global warming is to be kept to well below 2ºC, if not 1.5o
- Policies that are outside the land and energy domains, such as on transport and environment, can also make a critical difference to tackling climate change. Acting early is more cost-effective as it avoids losses.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change.
- It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988.
- In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by the WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC. It has 195 member states.
- It intends to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.
- IPCC assessments provide governments, at all levels, with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies. They are a key input into the international negotiations to tackle climate change.
- IPCC reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thus guaranteeing objectivity and transparency.