Global warming on land is happening at a rapid rate and humans will need to change the way we eat and farm to help save the planet, a new United Nations report found.
While humans should focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, better managing how we use our land to farm and protect forests can not only slow land degradation but also curb the rapid rate of climate change, UN scientists said.
The report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes a cycle in which the problems of land degradation and climate change exacerbate each other to make land and climate less livable.
“The cycle is accelerating,” NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, a report co-author, told the Associated Press. “The threat of climate change affecting people’s food on their dinner table is increasing.”
‘Killed’ by climate change: Iceland to erect memorial to lost glacier
The review also stated that climate change is already threatening our food supply “through increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”
The IPCC report, published Thursday and titled “Climate Change and Land,” is the latest from scientists around the globe studying climate change and how humans can stop – or contribute to – global temperature increases.
UN countries agreed during the Paris climate change conference in 2015 that global temperature increases need to be kept below 2°C to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change.That 2°C measure is a conservative estimate, even by the UN’s own account, as countries agreed to strive to keep the rise below 1.5°C.
President Donald Trump announced in 2017 his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
Arctic on fire: Thanks to climate change, parts of the Arctic are on fire. Scientists are concerned
“Warming over land has occurred at a faster rate than the global mean and this has had observable impacts on the land system,” the UN report authors wrote.
The report also focused on how farming and food production is furthering the problem. Between a quarter and 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food systems, the report estimates.
Actually changing the foods we eat by switching to healthy and sustainable diets full of grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meat was identified as “the single food with the greatest impact on the environment” in the report.
Even the trees are moving: Fed up with climate change, trees are moving north and west
Food waste was also identified as a major problem, with an estimated third of all food produced being lost or wasted.
Overall, the report stressed the need to protect the land given its ability to act as a carbon sink and absorb gasses that warm the atmosphere.
“This additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever,” study co-author Luis Verchot, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia told the Associated Press. “If we continue to degrade ecosystems, if we continue to convert natural ecosystems, we continue to deforest and we continued to destroy our soils, we’re going to lose this natural subsidy.”
99.9999% chance: We’re the cause of global warming, study says
Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UN climate change report reveals threats to food supply, how to fix it