United Nations Report Warns Of Massive Food Shortages That Could Affect Millions Of People

Report calls for action and dietary changes.

A farmer works at an avocado plantation in El Carmen ranch in the community of Tochimilco, Puebla State, Mexico.
Photo Credit: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

| August 12 2019,

7:27 pm

A new  report warns the world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates." The report concludes this, on top of the effects of climate change, will put dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report was done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and released this month.

“Governments challenged the IPCC to take the first-ever comprehensive look at the whole land-climate system. We did this through many contributions from experts and governments worldwide. This is the first time in IPCC report history a majority of authors – 53 percent – are from developing countries,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC, in a release.

The summary form of the report, which was compiled by more than 100 experts from 52 countries, was released in Geneva on Thursday. According to the report, 500 million people already live in places turning into a desert and soil is being lost between 10-100 times faster than it is forming.

The report also calls for action addressing climate change with more sustainable management of land resources — which Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, found the world has enough land to solve.

“Land already in use could feed the world in a changing climate and provide biomass for renewable energy, but early, far-reaching action across several areas is required,” Pörtner said in a statement. "Also, for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity.”

The report states a mass change in dietary choices could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve food security. Debra Roberts, also a co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, called on the world to move away from meats — which the report blames for one-third of food produced ending up lost or wasted, as a way to help the environment.

“Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably, in low greenhouse gas emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change,” Roberts said.

The report's release comes as part of IPCC's series of climate reports; including an upcoming report on the state of the world's oceans in September.