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What does what you eat have to do with climate change?

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 30 Nov 2012 22:38 GMT
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LONDON (AlertNet) – Do you regularly buy too much food and end up throwing it away?

It’s not just wasteful but has a direct impact on the environment: roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted globally - the equivalent of 6 to 10 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

This is just one fact that “Big Facts”, a new website launched on Friday, spells out in a bid to explain what food choices have to do with hurricanes, heat, floods and droughts.

The site shows 30 key facts to explain the complex relationship between agriculture and climate change, integrating research on issues ranging from undernourishment and population growth to forestry and fisheries. Each fact is illustrated with an infographic or photos from the field and links to related issues.

“It is well understood that climate change has an enormous impact on what we can grow and eat,” said Sonja Vermeulen, head of research at CGIAR’s Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the people behind “Big Facts”.

“Conversely, the global food system—from production to transportation and refrigeration—emits up to a third of human-generated greenhouse gases.”

When taken together, the “Big Facts” reveal in stark terms the sweeping impacts—some positive but most negative—of climate change on farmers, fishers and other food producers, as well as on poor people. They also underline agriculture’s sizeable contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Some other key facts include:

  • Impacts on water: By 2050, climate change will increase extreme drought, especially in the subtropics and low and mid-latitudes. Increased water stress will impact land areas twice the size of those areas that will experience decreased water stress.
  • Dietary change: South Asia will quadruple its meat consumption from 2005 to 2050. Despite these changes, its per capita meat consumption will be one-fifth of consumption in high-income nations.
  • Reduced deforestation: The economic potential of protecting forests globally is estimated to be between 1,270 and 4,230 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) per year in 2030 (at carbon prices up to $100 per tonne of CO2e). Achieving about half of this mid-range estimate would cost less than $20 per tonne of CO2e.
  • Livestock emissions: The global livestock sector emits almost 6,000 MtCO2e per year at 2008 levels and accounts for about 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Emissions from the sector are expected to increase 70 percent by 2050.

Agricultural agencies, farmers’ groups and policy makers are convening “Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day on Dec.3 during climate talks currently under way in Doha to push for policy action on climate change and food security.

CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, is a global partnership that unites organisations engaged in research for a future free of hunger.


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