Emissions from the global food system could increase global temperatures by more than 1.5C, according to new research.
A paper published in the journalScienceby an international team led by the University of Oxford reveals that, although reducing fossil fuel use is essential to meet global climate targets, those goals are out of reach unless the global food system is also transformed.
The research shows that what we eat, how much we eat, how much is wasted and how food is produced will need to change dramatically by 2050, if we are to achieve theParis Climate Agreements goal of limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels.
If current trends continue, emissions from food systems would surpass the 1.5C target within 30-45 years, the researchers found, andmay exceedthe 2C target within 90 years, even if all other sources of greenhouse gas emissionsimmediately stopped.
If other sources of greenhouse gas emissionsreached zero by2050, the 1.5C target would be surpassed in 10-20 years and the 2C target by the end of the century.
Discussions on mitigating climate change typically focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, for instance, from transportation or energy production. However, our researchemphasizes the importance of reducing emissions from the global food system, said lead author, Dr Michael Clark, of the Oxford Martin SchoolandNuffield Department of Population Health.
The good news is, there are many achievable ways rapidly to reduce food emissions if they areacted on quickly. These include both raising crop yields and reducing food loss and waste, but the most important isfor individuals toshift towards predominantly plant-based diets.
The research makes clear that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food systems will require coordinated action across sectors and between national governments.
However, the changes would have additional benefits, for example reducing water pollution and scarcity, increasing biodiversity, and reducing the rate of diet-related healthconditionssuch as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
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