The world cannot avoid the worst impacts of climate change without making serious changes to the ways humans grow food, raise livestock and manage forests, according to a landmark study Thursday from an international group of scientists.
The sprawling report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) examines how land use around the world contributes to the warming of Earth’s atmosphere, as well as how climate change already is impacting food and water supplies.
It makes clear that while fossil fuel-burning power plants and automobile tailpipes are the largest drivers of climate change, activities such as agriculture and forestry account for an estimated 23 percent of total human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
“We already knew that humanity’s over-exploitation of the Earth’s lands is a key driver of climate change, and that we need to take urgent, ambitious action to address these issues,” Jennifer Tabola, director for global climate strategy at The Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “We have a choice: do we balance the needs of human development and nature, or do we sleepwalk into a future of failing farmlands, eroding soil, collapsing ecosystems and dwindling food resources?”