Rutgers professor helps research 2019 UN Climate Report
In the most recent United Nations climate change report, Pamela McElwee, a School of Environmental and Behavioral Sciences professor, brought up how the effects of planting trees could make for increasing food prices.
“There were over a hundred scientists that were involved writing the U.N. Report," McElwee said, who was involved in the report.
McElwee said that the findings of the report were focused on long-term modeling of food prices under different climate change scenarios to the year 2050. All of this information and scenarios were drawn from published research data, including Rutgers professors’ findings in relation to land use and climate change.
The report offered scenarios of the future involving temperature change and how this affects the market of food.
“So what we can expect in the future at different temperature levels. So at 2 degrees Celsius increased at 3 degrees and so forth,” McElwee said.
The report referenced potential scenarios of policy actions that could be taken. Such policy actions could be reducing population size by decreasing the number of births or using more bioenergy, which is a focus more on governments or corporations or even planting more trees, McElwee said.
Planting more trees would provide benefits to draw out some of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, she said. Adding these policy factors into food prices showed an impact in the year 2050.
Essentially, trees would compete with crop land, which we need to feed our growing population.
“When the report talks about climate change and land, it needs a balance on multiple objectives. We need to produce enough food to feed everyone on the planet and the population size is growing,” McElwee said.
Yet, trees are needed to mitigate some of the effects of climate change. They would absorb carbon monoxide and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Trade-offs are needed for any solution, McElwee said. We have a finite amount of land and need to decide on what we want land to do for us.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is a division of the United Nations climate change board’s report does not offer any solutions, they offer policies that are relevant but not recommended.
Policies are laid out so consequences can be viewed by policymakers to make the steps on what to do, McElwee said. There have been discussions on policy change, but due to the recent release of the report a few weeks ago, nothing has concretely happened.
Countries have implemented climate change prevention in the past.
“For example, Germany has proposed increasing taxes on meat production because we know meat production is a driver of greenhouse gas emissions. Here in the United States, there has been a lot of attention on the Democratic presidential primary. On campaigners in Iowa, they’ve paid a lot of attention to measures of farmers in the U.S. can take on the report like preserving farmer’s conservation programs,” McElwee said.
This U.S. farmer’s conservation program could increase soil carbon through promoting cover crops. This would be beneficial to the soil and greenhouse gas emission reduction. The report does not make specific recommendations for individuals, but there are two things that individuals could do to reduce their footprint.
Reducing meat intake such as beef and lamb would help, due to the high greenhouse emission they invoke. Reducing food waste would also be beneficial, McElwee said.
“A third of the food that is produced globally is never consumed. That is a waste of production and is associated with greenhouse gas emissions and degradation of landscapes,” she said.
Individuals paying attention to their food is what really helps. Ordering smaller food portions, eating leftovers, not buying too much at the grocery store, making smaller trips and using up the food bought at the grocery store are things people can do to make an important impact on the environment, McElwee said.
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