World's Food Supply Threatened By Climate Change And Land Exploitation, UN Warns

World's Food Supply Threatened By Climate Change And Land Exploitation, UN Warns

By: Oliver G. Alvar -

New IPCC report reveals just how dire the situation is, showing our food supplies are critically threatened by the very human activity that produces them.

As new evidence reveals more about the dire crisis our world is facing, we're discovering more disturbing ways in which the economy and our very future is being threatened by our careless exploitation of our fragile planet.

In short, we must quickly change the way we manage our land across the whole planet if we want to protect our global food supplies and protect ourselves from the devastating effects of climate change. Our very survival is at stake. Most of the workable dry land on the planet is undergoing desertification and emanating unsustainable levels of greenhouse gases—and the point of no return is upon us.

These grim predictions come from a report published this week in Geneva by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which evaluated and measured the delicate link between land use and climate change. More than 100 scientists from over 50 nations contributed to the report, with far more experts around the globe having accepted the results and endorsed its conclusions.

food supply threatened by climate change ipcc report

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A dreadful picture

The report keenly points out that the land provides the “food, feed, fibre, fuel and freshwater” that human civilization and its economy needs to survive. As the first chapter reads,

"Neither our individual or societal identities, nor the world’s economy would exist without the multiple resources, services and livelihood systems provided by land ecosystems and biodiversity." 

But the unprecedented exploitation of our valuable resources has placed all workable land throughout the world under terrible stress, as we're forcing more out of it than it can possibly give for a sustained period of time. With an economy that fundamentally relies on increasingly unsustainable agricultural and deforestation practices, the house of cards is soon going to come crashing down around us.

"Land is where we live. Land is under growing human pressure and is part of the solution, but land cannot do it all." IPCC chair Hoesung Lee said.

food supply threatened by climate change ipcc report

This threatens the global economy as a whole, yes, but it gets worse. A great number of populations, especially on the planet's poorest countries near the equator, will be directly affected, with many regions becoming fundamentally infertile as desertification and land degradation creeps in. These populations will thereby need to look for other places to live, which will eventually also suffer a similar fate if nothing is done to better manage the land we still have.

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As Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of one of the Working Groups that contributed to the report, told reporters, 

“Today 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification. People living in already degraded or desertified areas are increasingly negatively affected by climate change.”

She also noted that humans already affect more than 70% of ice-free land on the planet. One quarter of that is already critically degraded, and if it becomes unusable, the economy and civilization in general is due to plummet.

food supply threatened by climate change ipcc report

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So, what can we do? 

At the individual level, the report suggests we should all decrease significantly—if not altogether eliminate—our meat consumption. We can also be more careful about not wasting food. But the key changes must come from official policies at the federal level: better land and resource management, distribution, and production. According to another of the report's Co-Chairs, over 30% of the food we produce globally is wasted.

food supply threatened by climate change ipcc report

This has to stop, as already we're producing more than the earth can handle and still there are people out there without access to food in the first place. The introduction of plant-based "biofuels" is also a crucial step towards minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, the report says.

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