Report

Global food system emissions could preclude achieving the 1.5° and 2°C climate change targets

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Science  06 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6517, pp. 705-708
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba7357

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Thought for food

To have any hope of meeting the central goal of the Paris Agreement, which is to limit global warming to 2°C or less, our carbon emissions must be reduced considerably, including those coming from agriculture. Clark et al. show that even if fossil fuel emissions were eliminated immediately, emissions from the global food system alone would make it impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C and difficult even to realize the 2°C target. Thus, major changes in how food is produced are needed if we want to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Science, this issue p. 705

Abstract

The Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5° or 2°C above preindustrial levels requires rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Although reducing emissions from fossil fuels is essential for meeting this goal, other sources of emissions may also preclude its attainment. We show that even if fossil fuel emissions were immediately halted, current trends in global food systems would prevent the achievement of the 1.5°C target and, by the end of the century, threaten the achievement of the 2°C target. Meeting the 1.5°C target requires rapid and ambitious changes to food systems as well as to all nonfood sectors. The 2°C target could be achieved with less-ambitious changes to food systems, but only if fossil fuel and other nonfood emissions are eliminated soon.

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