How The Food We Eat Makes Climate Change Worse
How The Food We Eat Makes Climate Change Worse

by Alex Whiting (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

The way we produce and eat food must change urgently both to cut the amount of planet-warming emissions produced by agriculture, and to help farmers adapt to climate change, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Without swift action, climate change will put millions of people at risk of hunger and poverty, the U.N. agency said in a report to mark World Food Day.

Here are some key facts:

1. Agriculture, forestry and changes in land use combined arethe second largest source of greenhouse gases, producing 21percent of global emissions. The top emitter is the energysector at 47 percent.

2. To feed a growing global population, agriculturalproduction must rise by about 60 percent by 2050.

3. Climate change is expected to cut harvests in developingcountries in the long term -- although it may also improve somecrop yields in the short term.

4. If climate change continues unchecked, it will make anadditional 42 million people vulnerable to hunger in 2050,according to FAO calculations. However, that figure does notinclude people affected by extreme weather events such asdrought or floods.

5. Small farmers, cattle herders and fishermen are the mostvulnerable to climate change, and will need better access totechnologies, markets, information and credit to adapt toclimate change.

6. Agriculture suffered some 25 percent of the total economiclosses caused by climate-related disasters in developingcountries between 2003 and 2013. For drought-related disasters,the share rose to 84 percent.

7. Livestock alone produces nearly two thirds of agricultural emissions -- mainly from animal burping, manure and feedproduction. Synthetic fertilisers are the next majorcontributor, producing 12 percent, and rice cultivation 10percent.

8. Carbon dioxide emissions from agriculture are mainlycaused by changes in land use, such as converting forests topasture or cropland, and land degradation from over-grazing.

9. Most direct emissions of methane and nitrous oxide arecaused by livestock flatulence, rice production in floodedfields and the use of nitrogen fertilisers and manure.

10. Nearly 50 percent of world food production depends onnitrogen fertiliser. The other half depends on nitrogen found insoil, animal manure, nitrogen-fixing plants, crop residues,wastes and compost.

11. More than a third of food produced worldwide is lost orwasted. Rotting food produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

12. Deforestation and forest degradation account for about 11percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the world's entire transport sector.

13. Reducing agriculture emissions depends partly on cuttingfood waste and loss, as well as shifting people's diets -- including consuming less animal products -- and changing farming practices.

Source: FAO State of Food and Agriculture report

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