How thoughtful farming could curb climate change, feed the world

Policy makers may begin to address climate change by encouraging sustainable agriculture practices around the world, according to a new report.

REUTERS/Arben Celi
An Albanian farmer washes his carrots in March 2012. Worldwide policies should encourage sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change, according to a new report.

It's never been easy to ensure that people around the world have enough to eat. And now, with the effects of climate change and the world's population both on the rise, it's more difficult than ever to feed everyone.

"Agriculture is both part of the problem and part of the solution to climate change," wrote Sir John Beddington, chair of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, in a report released today.

The problem with agriculture is that it significantly contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the BBC, farming produces approximately one-third of the world's emissions. These emission contributions stem from fossil fuel combustion and the clearing of otherwise forested areas. 

Climate change will increase temperature variability and alter the amount and patterns of precipitation. These, among other challenges, will make the process of growing food more difficult in the future. 

To address the problem of food security, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was charged with clarifying global policy goals in advance of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June.

This group of 13 natural and social scientists from around the world suggest seven areas for policy action. Their report was presented at today's Planet Under Pressure conference in London, UK.

On the economic front, the commission recommends that the world's richest countries make significant increases in investment in sustainable agriculture in the next decade. This might mean that the world's richest countries would pay out the $20 billion they promised for agricultural development in 2009.

The commission also suggested reducing waste in the food system. They pointed to specific areas where waste reduction could make a difference, including infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits.

Christine Negra, a scientist who coordinated the commission's work told the BBC, "the less we waste food, the less food we have to produce, the less greenhouse gases are emitted."
The full report is available online.

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