Eat plants, conserve land to curb climate change - IPCC

A pedestrian walks past public telephone boxes daubed with the words

A pedestrian walks past public telephone boxes daubed with the words"vegan and"rebel and the symbol of the Extinction Rebellion environmental protest group in London

But he said the media, by focusing on eating less meat, is misleading consumers on what's really attributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

"Forests, an enormous carbon sink, can be regenerated to cool the planet", the paper continued, adding, "But with industrial farming covering a third of land today, there's limited space". To do this, people have used more and more land and freshwater resources resulting in what scientists say is a spike in emissions.

Desertification of agricultural lands in India is getting worse, and this will have implications for the whole world. Any scenario to limit global warming to less than 2°C by 2100 "requires land-related mitigation and land-use change", authors estimate.

So, what is the current state of our land resources?

- Since pre-industrial times, the land surface air temperature has risen almost twice as much as the global average temperature, intensifying heatwaves, reducing rainfall, especially in dryland areas, and increasing water evaporation rates.

Such pressures on the food system come at a time when the global population is rising, with more and more people able to afford a meat-rich, Western-style diet. Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its water bodies as well as vegetation and wildlife.

Thursday's IPCC report called for wiser land use, including protecting forests from being cut down for crops and grazing, and eco-friendly farming that uses fewer chemicals, such as fertilizers which emits planet-warming nitrous oxide. Australia has experienced much the same trends. This, in turn, contributes to climate change, which then worsens land degradation. The mean land surface air temperature in the period 2006 to 2015 was about 1.53 degree Celsius above the average of pre-industrial period of 1850 to 1900.

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As a warming atmosphere intensifies the world's droughts, flooding, heat waves, wildfires and other weather patterns, it is speeding up the rate of soil loss and land degradation, the report concludes. For example, wheat yields are projected to increase 11% by the year 2026, despite the growing area only increasing by 1.8%. Where and by how much have temperatures most drastically changed?

Scientists at a press conference after the publication of the report emphasised both the seriousness of the problem and the need to make societal changes soon.

"There's a wide range of food systems that rely on meat, and many people rely on meat for protein", Cynthia Rosenzweig, a NASA climatologist and report author, told AFP. A reduction in that shocking figure presents what the UN Habitat agency calls 'an enormous opportunity for tackling food insecurity.' The reality is that the world is witnessing changing food systems.

According to the report, roughly two-thirds of the world's ice-free land is now devoted to human uses.

More than 500 million people now live in areas that already experience desertification or degradation, mostly in the world's poorest countries, which are also the most exposed to food insecurity. "We are doing everything we can to improve our environmental footprint". According to the authors, "There has been a major growth in emissions from managed pastures due to increased manure deposition". It states that 25%-30% of total food produced now is either lost or wasted and that if this amount could be reduced, it could take some pressure off of the need to convert additional land for agriculture.

"It's not only about reducing emissions", said Thunberg. And it would make us healthier. Inevitably, all solutions are highly location-specific and contextual, and it is vital to bring together local communities and industry, as well as governments at all levels.

"We already knew that humanity's over-exploitation of the Earth's lands is a key driver of climate change, and that we need to take urgent, ambitious action to address these issues", Jennifer Tabola, director for global climate strategy at the Nature Conservancy, said in a statement.

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