CLIMATE EXPERTS HAVE sounded yet another dire alarm, this time aimed straight at our stomachs. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, on “Climate Change and Land,” warns that meeting the challenges of our climate crisis requires urgent changes in our food systems. Days after, as if to illustrate the point, news broke that cattle ranchers and soybean farmers in Brazil were torching the Amazon rainforest, the “lungs of the world,” to clear land for more industrial-scale fields. Grim as it is, the report may be overly optimistic because it doesn’t sufficiently address the power of agribusinesses.
The IPCC identifies a range of impacts on land, water, and other natural resources, and offers a set of welcome if unsurprising recommendations to both reduce the contributions of our food systems to climate change and adapt to feed a global population expected to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050. They include: Stop draining wetlands to grow biofuels; reduce demand for beef and strengthen regulations to prevent deforestation in critical areas like the Amazon; cut food waste, which now squanders one-third of consumable food; reduce excessive fertilizer use; and improve cropping systems to turn croplands from heavy greenhouse-gas emitters to carbon sinks.