Climate change report brings a stark warning

This week's publication of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on global warming has seen calls from the organisation's Secretary General António Guterres for major changes in the way that farmers produce food.

Specifically, he called for a reduction in the reliance placed on animal-based production systems.

The report also calls for action to be taken which will see the global temperature rise projected for the next 100 years to be limited to 1.5°C, not the 2.0°C called for under the Paris Treaty on climate change agreed at the end of 2015. Making this a reality will require immediate action on the part of governments around the world.

Guterres said: “The IPCC report, which was produced by the world’s leading climate scientists, is an ear-splitting wake-up call to the world.  It confirms that climate change is running faster than we are. And we are running out of time.

“We see the consequences all around us; more extreme weather, rising sea levels, diminishing Arctic sea ice.  The scientists paint the most vivid picture we have ever had between a temperature rise of 1.5°C versus 2°C. 

“A half of a degree of warming makes a world of difference.  It means more heat waves for tens of millions of people.  Far greater species loss.  Increased water scarcity in some of the world’s most unstable regions.  A 10-fold increase in Arctic ice-free summers.  And a total wipe-out of the world’s coral reefs.

“At the same time, the report shows that it is still possible to limit warming to 1.5°C.  However, that will require urgent and far more ambitious action to cut emissions by half by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.  This will take unprecedented changes in all aspects of society — especially in key sectors such as land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities. Specifically, we need to end deforestation and plant billions of trees; drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels and phase out coal by 2050; ramp up installation of wind and solar power; invest in climate-friendly sustainable agriculture; and consider new technologies such as carbon capture and storage.”

Commenting, Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato said: “Our soils have an extraordinary capacity to absorb and hold carbon if land is farmed and used in the right ways. A recent study, which looked at farming systems and pasture trials revealed that we could capture up to 100% of current annual carbon emissions by switching to organic management practices.

“The other great advantage of using soils to hold carbon is that this is a low-cost solution, not an expensive techno-fix.  

“The report is also clear that we must stop ripping up our forests to make way for agriculture. Instead we need to increase afforestation and reforestation. In an agricultural context this means a move towards agro-forestry where farming incorporates the growing of trees.

“But it is clear that transforming our food and farming sectors so they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem requires political will. In Europe the Common Agriculture Policy and in the UK the Agriculture Bill must drive the transition towards organic and sustainable farming practices so that twenty years from now these are the norm not the exception.”  

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