Climate change report: main points

Changes to farming and eating habits among measures required to tackle emergency

– Rising temperatures due to human activity, notably the burning of fossil fuels, combined with land abuses are putting global food supplies at risk;

– Tackling rising emissions from land is not on its own enough to curb climate disruption as greenhouse gases must be slashed from all sectors to keep global warming well below 2 degrees and preferably 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels;

– Global warming will increasingly lead to extremes such as drought, heatwaves and wildfires and threaten food security – reducing yields, pushing up food prices and disrupting supply chains;

– Sustainable farming, changing diets to eat less meat, replanting forests and protecting habitats, such as peatlands and mangroves, can cut emissions and deliver other benefits such as securing food supplies;


– Land is under immense pressures, with around 70 per cent of the world’s ice-free land affected by human activity – while global heating is driving more problems such as turning land to desert, and soil erosion;

– How people use land is fuelling global warming – notably intensive activities such as growing crops, raising livestock and cutting down forests, which accounted for almost a quarter of greenhouse gases between 2006 and 2017;

– Balanced diets, consuming plant-based foods such as grains, beans and lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables and animal-based food produced in sustainable systems with low greenhouse gas emissions can help curb climate change and benefit health;

– 13 per cent of carbon dioxide emitted between 2007 and 2016 was caused by human abuses of land, mostly from cutting down forests;

– Land also accounted for 44 per cent of methane emissions, with livestock such as cattle and expansion of rice paddies driving rising levels of the greenhouse gases, and 82 per cent of nitrous oxide emissions arising from fertilisers for crops and from livestock;

– 25 to 30 per cent of all food produced is lost or wasted, contributing even more greenhouse gases;

– Sustainable food production, improved forest management, protecting soils, conserving habitats and restoring land, reducing deforestation and food loss and waste can all tackle climate change, help wildlife and boost livelihoods;

– Conserving peatlands, wetlands, grasslands, mangroves and forests can have an immediate impact in capturing carbon;

– Planting monocultures of trees or crops for bioenergy on a large scale in an unsustainable way will have negative impacts, and may lead to insufficient land to grow food.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times