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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership reports on the Key Findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report

Key findings:

  1. Climate-related impacts are already reducing crop yields in some parts of the world, a trend that is projected to continue as temperatures rise further. Crops affected include staples such as wheat, maize and rice. Climate change is projected to increase price volatility for agricultural commodities, and reduce food quality.
  2. Farmers can adapt to some changes, but there is a limit to what can be managed. Adaptive capacity is projected to be exceeded in regions losest to the equator if temperatures increase by 3°C or more. The agricultural industry’s own interests are best served by ambitious approaches to adaptation and to cutting emissions. 
  3. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture comprised about 10–12% of man-made GHG emissions in 2010. The sector is the largest contributor of non-carbon dioxide (non-CO2) GHGs such as methane.
  4. Opportunities for mitigation include reducing emissions from land use change, land management and livestock management. Carbon can be captured and stored in soil and biomass. Economy-wide emissions from energy use can be reduced, under certain conditions, by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels. 
  5. The potential for reducing GHG emissions from agriculture through changes in consumption could be substantially higher than technical mitigation options. Approaches include reducing food waste, changing diets towards less GHG-intensive food (e.g. substitution of animal products with plant-based food), and reducing overconsumption in regions where this is prevalent.

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From the IPCC Technical Summary: 


Current GHG emission levels are dominated by contributions from the energy supply, AFOLU, and industry sectors; industry and building gain considerably in importance if indirect emissions are accounted for (robust evidence, high agreement). Of the 49(±4.5) GtCO2eq emissions in 2010, 35% of GHG emissions were released in the energy supply sector, 24% in Agriculture, Forestry and Other LandUse (AFOLU), 21% in industry, 14% in transport, and 6.4% in buildings. When indirect emissions from electricity and heat production are assigned to sectors of final energy use, the shares of the industry and buildings sectors in global GHG emissions grow to 31% and 19%, respectively.


See also

Chapter 11: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU)