UN Says Meat Production Destroys Land and Water Sources

A new UN report has suggested people take up plant-based diets to prevent climate change

A new UN report has suggested people take up plant-based diets to prevent climate change

Already, 500 million people on the planet live on lands turning into desert, according to the report, produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an global group of scientists convened by the United Nations.

Using data going back to 1961, the report notes that agriculture now accounts for about 70% of the world's freshwater use.

Globally, more than 70% of the land surface is used to satisfy people's needs. But room for that must be carved from crop land, pastures or existing forests.

The planet's ability to feed humanity is being threatened by the increasing use of land and water resources, according to a report from the U.N.'s top panel of scientists that released on Thursday. It focuses on the agricultural sector and soil protection. It suggested "factoring environmental costs into food", and highlighted the importance of indigenous knowledge and methods in making land use more sustainable. In 2015, about 500 million people lived in dry areas that experienced desertification in recent decades as a result of human activities.

Demand for such products also increases trade and related food waste because of bad storage and handling. As the weather grows more volatile, that number could continue to rise in the coming years. We must harness the enormous positive potential of our lands and make them part of the climate solution.

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The climate panel also states that the necessary reduction in greenhouse gases can not be achieved by looking only at cars, companies and power plants: the solution will have to come mainly from a global adjustment in diets, which has people eat less meat and more plant-based foods. The report will pay significant attention to the impact of our current farming processes on the levels of carbon dioxide emissions being released into the air as a further effort to inspire action towards the increase in sustainable farming practices. It also accounts for almost half of the methane released. Land degradation jeopardizes our ability to feed the word, threatens the survival of over a million species, destroys ecosystems and drives resource-related conflicts that demand costly worldwide interventions.

The core findings are crystal clear: climate change is threatening the world's food supply, even as the way we produce food fuels global warming.

Released in Geneva ahead of the United Nations conference on combating desertification and land degradation which is to be held in India next month, the IPCC report also flagged how unsustainable farm practices, deforestation and land use patterns accounted for 23% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally during 2007-16 and how a business-as-usual scenario may lead to a global food crisis.

Hans-Otto Pörtner, who chaired the IPCC working group on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, commented to Nature magazine: "We don't want to tell people what to eat".

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.

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