The only way to save the planet: change how we eat

Cutting emissions from transport and industry not enough to deal with climate change, says IPCC report on land use

Deforestation in the Amazon

We have all known for many years that a healthy body depends on a healthy diet. Now a new report makes it abundantly clear how a healthy planet relies on one too, if our species and many others are to survive.

A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has revealed that unless changes are made to the way we eat, farm and use land, it will be impossible to curb, let alone halt and reverse, the effects of climate change. Cutting emissions from transport and industry alone will no longer be enough.

Published today after a week-long summit in Geneva and compiled from thousands of scientific studies around the world, the report, Climate Change and Land, looks at how land use affects climate change, and vice versa, and the steps society should be taking to change the way we feed ourselves.

It paints a bleak picture of a planet colonised by humans for their own gain, and suffering as a result: almost three-quarters of land that is not covered by ice has been converted to provide support or food for an ever-growing population. And the use we make of that land produces almost a quarter (23 per cent) of manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

It also warns about the pressure being put on the planet by agriculture and the livestock industry. Deforestation to create pastures for cattle; carbon-sequestering peat bogs drained to create farmland; vast tracts of land given over to growing feed crops; animals that produce half the world’s methane, the worst greenhouse gas – these are among the major contributors to the crisis.

All of this highlights the importance role of meat free eating in halting the impending climate catastrophe. Cutting down on the amount of meat and dairy we eat is one way that individuals can mitigate their effect on the planet. Indeed, meat reducing and increasing our intake of fruit and vegetables are among the recommendations of the IPCC report.

This is the latest in a series of stark IPCC reports in recent years, in which the Nobel prize-winning body has repeatedly urged governments to take urgent action on the climate and individuals to change their diets and patterns of consumption.

Its powerfully worded Synthesis report, published in 2014, was described as “the most audited scientific document in history”. As well as setting out the “severe, widespread and irreversible impacts” of climate change”, it said the world had the means to resolve the problem, but perhaps not the will. In 2013, the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment report warned that “continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system”.

Read the IPCC’s Climate Change and Land report