Warnings Grow of Threats to World’s Food and Water Supplies | Best Countries

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Separate reports released this week that warn of looming food and water supply crises are the latest calls for countries to act with greater urgency in the face of climate change and the exploitation of natural resources.

The planet’s ability to feed humanity is being threatened by the increasing use of land and water resources, according to a report from the U.N.’s top panel of scientists that released on Thursday. The report, compiled from the research of more than 100 scientists from 52 countries, called on changes in the way people produce and consumer food.

The report said soil is being lost at a rapid rate and urges changes in how land is used and in countries’ agricultural practices. Already, 500 million people on the planet live on lands turning into desert, according to the report, produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international group of scientists convened by the United Nations. Climate change will worsen the impact of soil loss, the report said.

The panel’s report also said farmland will need to decrease and forests need to expand to prevent the planet’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. To prevent such a temperature rise, global greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease by 40%-50% in the next decade, the scientists said.

The report recommends that to stop these food shortages, countries begin taking initiatives for reforestation and reducing food waste. According to the report, food waste accounts for 10% of human greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists also have called on the reduction of methane and other greenhouse gases that come from livestock.

“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,” Jim Skea, co-chairperson of the IPCC’s working group, said in a prepared statement.

Thursday’s warning follows a report released on Tuesday warning that countries that collectively hold one-fourth of the world’s population face looming water supply shortages. The majority of those countries are in North Africa and the Middle East, but the list also includes developing nations in Africa, as well as Pakistan and India in South Asia.

The report also says that more than a third of the world’s major urban areas of more than 3 million people are under high or extremely high levels of water stress. Those urban areas include Los Angeles, Chennai, India, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Cape Town, South Africa, which last year narrowly avoided what officials there were calling Day Zero – the day all of the dams supplying the city with water would be dry.

Earlier this summer, Moody’s, the international financial risk agency, warned that climate change may cost the global economy as much as $69 trillion by the year 2100. That report, which cited data from the IPCC, said the impact of climate change may vary from country to country, with some countries’ economies decreasing from projected levels while others increase.

Countries already in warm climates are at greatest risk of seeing downturns in their projected gross domestic products by the year 2048, while nations in cold-climate Northern and Eastern Europe may see a boost in projected GDP growth.

In a sign of the growing risk that climate change is seen to pose for countries’ economies, Moody’s in July bought a controlling interest in a company that measures the physical risks of climate change. A majority of shares were bought in Four Twenty Seven, a company in California that measures hazards’ impacts on companies and countries. Those hazards range from heat stress to sea level rise, hurricanes and extreme amounts of rainfall.

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