Keeping global warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including land and food, said the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a report released Aug. 8, 2019.
The panel of scientists said agriculture, deforestration and other land use - such as harvesting peat and managing grasslands and wetlands - generate about one-third of human greenhouse gas emissions and 44% of methane emissions. The panel suggests that farmland be reduced and forestland increased to keep the earth from getting more than 1.5 degrees C hotter than in the pre-industrial era. Global temperatures have already risen about 1 degree C in the past 150 years.
Currently, about 50% of the globe's vegetated land is dedicated to agriculture — and about 30% of cropland is used to grow grain for animal feed. Given how much land it takes to grow food to feed livestock, meat production is a leading cause of deforestation, reported National Public Radio.
According to the reports, humans must drastically alter food production to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming.
"Emissions from agricultural production are projected to increase," the authors warn. "Delaying action" on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they continue, "could result in some irreversible impacts on some ecosystems."
This is the latest in a series of reports from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The new report adds weight and detail to a warning put out by the same panel of scientists last fall, in which they sounded the alarm about the inadequacy of the pledges countries have made so far to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.