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What you need to know about the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new Special Report

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DHARNA NOOR: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate science body, just wrapped up discussions in Geneva, Switzerland on a new special report on Climate Change and Land. And honestly, it’s bleak, but it’s not too late to act. Here’s what you need to know.

The climate crisis is already having a huge impact on land. Heat waves, droughts and severe storms are affecting ecosystems around the world, and that’s had a significant impact on food production. It affects both crop yields and animal agriculture. The way we use land is also itself a major contributor to the climate crisis. Some 23% of all of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, food production, deforestation, and other land use. If we keep emitting greenhouse gases, we’re going to have an unprecedented massive food crisis, especially in tropical and subtropical areas. Global rising temperatures are going to make it hard to grow food and can impact the nutritional value of crops. The report also looked at food price spikes. We can’t say climate change is the cause of them, but they’ve been triggers or stress multipliers that can contribute to food becoming more expensive.

To take on this crisis, the report says we must change the way we use land. We must preserve our forest, peatlands and wetlands. We need to stop producing so much meat to cut methane emissions and use land more efficiently. We’ll need to stop wasting so much food. The report says that we lose 25% of the food that we produce. Basically, policymakers have to prioritize sustainable land practices, ones that don’t reduce the land’s productive capacity and degrade the earth. Incredibly, our biosphere has actually responded to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions by producing more plants, which absorb more greenhouse gases. That’s particularly true on land that humans haven’t messed with, but if we keep degrading our land, we’ll lose that natural subsidy. We’ll have more on this report soon, so keep following us on The Real News Network.

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Dharna Noor is a staff writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate vertical.