The way humans make and eat food is taking a toll on the planet, and scientists say humans need to take urgent action to prevent further degradation of the Earth, according to a new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Global scientists say that eating a plant-based diet can reduce carbon emissions and food waste, according to the report. The land is warming twice as fast as the planet and cutting down forests and rainforests, which is only adding to the problem, experts say.
“We humans affect more than 70 percent of ice-free land, a quarter of this land is degraded,” said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of the IPCC, according to CNN. “The way we produce food and what we eat contributes to the loss of natural ecosystems and declining biodiversity.”
The report, released Thursday, issues “dire warnings” against clearcutting forests, displacing species from their habitats and destroying soil — all of which contribute to climate change, according to a statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Scientists have warned in recent years that the increase in temperature will cause extreme weather events, rising sea levels, species extinction and reduced capacity to produce food.
“Reducing food waste and choosing a plant-based diet can significantly reduce emissions,” the NRDC continued in the statement. “When we decide what to eat, we’re making choices that send a signal to the marketplace. And we know that wasting food is also a driver of climate change; when we throw food away, we’re throwing away everything it took to make that food: climate pollution, water, pesticides, fertilizers, energy, packaging, labor.”
A previous IPCC report stated that humans only have until 2030 to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and prevent catastrophic global warming. With that, politicians and grassroots organizers alike have suggested ways to halt the damage, like cutting back on the use of plastic straws — which can be incredibly harmful to marine life when they end up in the ocean and the planet when they end up in landfills.
However, the new IPCC report suggests paper straws may not be enough.
“The world must take immediate action to transform the way we use our land — forestry, agriculture, industrial and urban development — in order to avoid a climate catastrophe,” the NRDC continued in the statement.
Examples of such “transformative change” include driving down carbon emissions by changing forest and agricultural practices, altering land use and the world’s food system and reducing food waste.
Climate change increases droughts, flooding and heat waves, leading to food shortages and the destruction of natural ecosystems, CNN noted, citing research. Deforestation and agriculture practices can damage the land and lead to large amounts of greenhouse gas.
“When land is degraded, it reduces the soils ability to take up carbon and this exacerbates climate change,” Masson-Delmotte added, according to CNN. “In turn, climate change exacerbates land degradation in many different ways. Today 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification.”
As a result of the report, the NRDC has urged global leaders to take effective action.
“When it comes to climate change, the future is in our collective hands. We need to act and spur our governments and corporations to move away from the business-as-usual that is undermining the very fabric of life on earth,” the NRDC continued in the statement. “To mitigate climate change, save wildlife, and secure our food supply, we need transformative change to our economy and our current practices.“
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