‘Unprecedented’ changes needed to tackle climate change

Shifting diets away from intensively-farmed animal products is one of the “rapid and far-reaching” transitions that must happen if global warming is to be kept within 1.5 degrees, a major new climate change report has warned.

Published today (8 October) by the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the report said that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is possible, but will require “unprecedented changes” in energy, land and ecosystems, urban infrastructure and industry. Currently, the world is on track to see temperatures rise by between 3 and 4 degrees.

As well as a shift in diets, the report also recommended a move to low or zero-emission power, such as renewable energy, electrifying transport, and developing green infrastructure, such as green roofs. Emissions from the livestock industry are one of the top contributors to global emissions, accounting for 14.5 per cent of the global total, primarily from the beef and dairy sectors.

Among the specific changes in land use and food production that would help limit emissions, the report highlighted sustainable diets and reduced food waste, soil sequestration, reduced deforestation and responsible sourcing.

The report was commissioned after the landmark Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, which included a pledge to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C.”

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said report co-chair, Hans-Otto Pörtner.

Another co-chair, Debra Roberts, told the BBC: “The report is very clear, this can be done, but it will require massive changes, socially and politically and accompanied by technological development.”

The report lists several major benefits of limiting warming to 1.5, rather than 2 degrees, including smaller losses in staple crops including maize, rice and wheat, and reduced risks to marine biodiversity. Coral reefs are predicted to completely disappear if temperatures rise by 2 degrees, compared to declining by 70-90 per cent at 1.5 degrees.

Sea levels will continue to rise under 1.5 degrees, but 10 million fewer people would be exposed to the risks of flooding than under 2 degrees, the report said.

The report also stressed that for any change to have an effect, it must be a ‘whole systems’ approach that links different sectors together with no trade off.

For example, turning land over to bioenergy crops to reduce reliance on fossil fuels can have a negative effect on food security by reducing the land available for food production, and cause biodiversity loss. On the other hand, reforestation helps absorb carbon dioxide, and can also provide food, work to purify water sources and protect ecosystems.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said report co-chair, Valerie Masson-Delmotte.

The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options. The report was compiled by 91 authors from 40 countries.

10 responses to “‘Unprecedented’ changes needed to tackle climate change

  1. Apart from stating the b****ing obvious, they’ve been talking about this for decades! By the time they’ve got all the committees, summits, steering groups etc together, it’ll be too late for more talking. You must be so frustrated at being ignored & regarded as a ‘freak’. What do we tell our kids & grandkids – ‘Sorry you’re going to drown or perish in a fire or drought, but we’re making too much money to bother about climate change’.
    Carry on doing what you’re doing anyway & hopefully, they’ll start listening now!

  2. I agree with Gwen. The talking has to stop and every country has to play their part in reducing global warming. The poor in the world always seem to suffer the most. Let us hope that Donald Trump does badly in the mid term elections.

  3. One of the ways individuals can act is to give up meat. ‘Anyone eating meat is not serious about climate change’. Any comments on Riverford Meat?

  4. I notice Guy says intensively farmed meat. I’m afraid that is a cop out. If we all went vegan, the problem would become manageable. The problem we have is that by the time children realise that they are eating dead animals, they have been eating them for some years and become used to it. There is some evidence that young children, when presented with the truth of what they are eating, are reluctant to do so.

    • Have you thought that by the world becoming totally vegan the plant kingdom will suffer? Farmers do not keep animals as a hobby, the cost of looking after them is enormous. No demand on meat, no animals so no manure to feed our fields. The result, the exhaustion of the soil, no minerals, nothing… A total chaos to the ecosystem. Vegan does not mean the salvation, all should be done in harmony and with respect. In arable farming by stopping the use of pesticides (pesticides kill more wildlife than anything else) and in animal farming by following strict welfare rules and stopping animal “factories”. As Guy said, less and better, treat meat as a treat. The important thing is to know from where your food comes from. This modern era has lost the link with nature. Education, education, education, respect and compassionate welfare. Sad to think that some children do not have a clue about where their meat comes, observing nature is the best lesson in the world, from birth to death. Very healthy conversations come from letting your children see how nature works.

  5. Thank you for drawing the report to our attention and for providing a useful resume. In our house, meat consumption has dwindled to free-range (organic if possible) chicken once in a while. But we use eggs a lot, and various kinds of milk and yoghurt (organic where possible), including goats. Plus lots of veggies, and fish. Can only wonder how the world will change its eating habits.
    Re children establishing eating patterns, both mine stopped eating meat in their teens. They ate it again later on, but now one sticks to occasional fr chicken, while the other married a meat-eater and does eat meat, although not enormously. It’s very much up to the individual. But there are people who think they cannot survive without meat.

  6. Yes they have but then many of my suburban neighbours think it’s the Govt and industry alone that needs to change it all for them! Not their own mind set and lack of change in their backyards. Put my hands in the air and I’m as irresponsible as the next person when it came to cars in particular – everyone wants one. I, and my now retired GP husband, 100% car share much to friends and neighbours surprise. We organise it’s use around my work and his hobbies plus utilise public transport more. I decided we only needed one ‘killing machine’ on the road as loss of wildlife ISN’T, in my books, down to just pesticides and field management alone; it’s every single car bombing up and down our roads at ever increasing numbers and speed! 50 years ago in the summer you stopped every few miles to wipe the poor splattered insects off your windscreen – not now. Fewer insects, fewer song birds and on the recently finished part of A66, which I travelled along yesterday morning, 4 dead hedgehogs, since the night before, plus 11 pheasants which were part of a farmer’s livelihood.

  7. Grass fed beef is OK isn’t it?

    Oh I like dairy products. I’m finding it difficult to change

  8. I agree that we must do as much as we can to help against global warming, but I am also totally sceptical about reports on climate change, mostly because of the two following reasons:
    – Why governments do not oblige the use of environmental resources like solar, aeolian or heat power, etc. in all new constructions? One of the mayor contributors to global warming is the way our homes and buildings are heated in the winter or air conditioned in the summer. If we were to use eco-technologies and eco-architecture in our homes and buildings the impact on global warming will drop dramatically. Sadly, the petrol industry is so huge and makes so many countries and people so rich and “powerful” that governments around the world are not at all interesting on cutting up this damaging trade.
    – Animal farming: have we taken into consideration the impact on global warming by the production of petrochemical fertilisers if lacking on natural fertilisers like manure? Nowadays it sounds like being carnivorous is a sin but is it vegetarian or vegan the solution? Soil is lacking in nutrients and minerals because of the effect of intensive arable agriculture. What about the impact of pesticides in wildlife? We (omnivorous, vegetarians or vegans) should be conscious about where our food comes from and if not organic because inaccesible to a lot of pockets, at least food that comes from ethical methods.
    We cannot continue like this, Earth cannot survive if we continue to proceed this way. We should look at the way we live and the changes we all could make. Governments should do so much more, starting by stopping their greediness and economic interests. Ethical farming should be taught at schools and agriculture should follow harder rules on the way we produce vegetables or meat by respecting the ecosystem and the welfare of all creatures. The world needs to be fed but it should be done in harmony with the ecosystem. There is only one Planet Earth and we are destroying it.

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