'Radical change' needed to address climate change's impact on food security - Tearfund

(Photo: Unsplash/Scott Goodwill)

The world must move away from fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy sources, Tearfund has said, after the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that food security was coming under increasing threat.

The UN report released on Thursday highlights the pressure being put on land and food production as a result of rising global temperatures. 

Speaking at the launch of the report, French climate scientist and working group member Valérie Masson-Delmotte said that around a quarter of the world's ice-free land was already "degraded". 

"Today 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification," she told journalists.

"People living in already degraded or desertified areas are increasingly negatively affected by climate change."

The report warns that without sustainable land management, it will be harder to feed the world's population and meet the goal of keeping global temperature rises to below 2C. 

It recommends that countries work to reduce the pressure on land and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions by tackling food waste and growing plant-based 'bio' fuels. 

According to the report, around a third of food produced is lost or wasted. 

"Limiting global warming to 1.5 or even two degrees (Celsius) will involve removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and land has a critical role to play in carbon dioxide removal," said report contributor Dr Jim Skea.

"Agricultural practices can help build up carbon in soils, but it could also mean using more bio-energy with or without carbon capture and storage and expanding forests."

Paul Cook, Head of Advocacy at Christian development agency Tearfund, said governments and businesses needed to respond to the "urgency" of the situation.

"This report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown us that radical change is needed in the way that we produce food and manage land if we are to tackle climate change," he said.

"We need to see an end to the reliance on fossil fuels as we shift to a cleaner, renewable existence and we need governments and businesses to respond in recognition of the urgency we face if we are to meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

"We can improve how we manage our land by stopping mass deforestation; restoring precious ecosystems like peatlands and wetlands that store carbon; changing our diet to be more plant based; reducing food waste; and supporting agriculture that conserves soil and water while building resilient food sources and incomes.

"The climate crisis is hitting those in poverty the hardest and the way we continue to use land will be integral to halting this worldwide catastrophe."