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Climate Change Threatens the World?s Food Supply, United Nations Warns

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the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
the United Nations
the University of Aberdeen
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the World Resources Institute
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Pete Smith
Aditi Sen
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The New York Times
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Sign up here for Climate Fwd:, our email newsletter.The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. The I.P.C.C. is writing a series of climate reports, including one last year on the disastrous consequences if the planet’s temperature rises just 1.5 degrees Celsius above its preindustrial levels, as well as an upcoming report on the state of the world’s oceans.Some authors also suggested that food shortages are likely to affect poorer parts of the world far more than richer ones. Of the five gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions that are released each year from deforestation and other land-use changes, “One gigaton comes from the ongoing degradation of peatlands that are already drained,” said Tim Searchinger, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, who is familiar with the report. The same is true for planting large numbers of trees (something often cited as a powerful strategy to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere), which can push crops and livestock onto less productive land.Planting as many trees as possible would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by about nine gigatons each year, according to Pamela McElwee, a professor of human ecology at Rutgers University and one of the report’s lead authors. “Agricultural practices that include indigenous and local knowledge can contribute to overcoming the combined challenges of climate change, food security, biodiversity conservation, and combating desertification and land degradation,” the report’s authors wrote.It comes at a time when indigenous people are currently under threat.

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