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The role of land for global sustainability and the importance of addressing food demand trends

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Paulina Rowicka.

As land becomes more and more scarce, the way we use and manage it becomes increasingly important. Already today, the conversion from natural vegetation to managed land, and the continuous use of that land, are the main drivers for biodiversity loss, and second only to fossil fuel use, for climate change. My work is a part of the Foreseer group, which deals with big picture issues with major resources (energy, land and water) and their interconnections. I will present our latest research on the future scenarios for global agriculture and land-use, which highlights the significance of food demand management, including changing diets and reducing food waste.

If we maintain ‘business as usual’, then by 2050 global cropland will have expanded by 42% and GHG emissions from food productions by 80% over 2009 levels. We identified three imperatives for reducing these impacts: (1) closing gaps in crop yields in Africa and other part of the world, (2) cutting food waste and (3) limiting the consumption of meat and dairy, to the point which nutritional experts recommend on health grounds. We then projected the likely results of various combinations of these measures. Yield gap closure alone still showed a GHG increase of 42% by 2050. Closing yield gaps and halving food waste still showed a minor increase of 2% in GHG . When healthy diets were added, the model suggests that all three measures combined would result in agricultural GHG levels almost halving from their 2009 level – dropping 48%.

This talk is part of the Caius MCR/SCR research talks series.

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