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CLF Perspective on Climate Change and Food Systems

Oct 16, 2018

CLF Perspective on Climate Change and Food SystemsMore than ever, the world needs global collaboration and local action to keep global warming below a maximum increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognizes the critical role of the food system in this crisis—and asserts that agriculture and dietary change must be part of the “rapid and far-reaching” transitions they say are needed.

A recent study in Nature, “Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits,” echoes the IPCC’s findings on the role of the food system and the need for solutions. The study calls for a 90 percent reduction for beef and a 60 percent reduction in milk, for example. (The United Nations estimates that 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions may be attributed to livestock production alone.) The Nature study states that we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food by up to 56 percent with a shift toward low-meat, plant-rich diets. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has been studying the connections between climate and food system activities since our inception in 1996. As technical science advisers to the Meatless Monday campaign, which encourages a 15 percent reduction in meat consumption, we recommend not only Meatless Monday as a strategy for helping meet greenhouse gas reduction goals, but a number of other strategies as well, including the reduction of food waste and a shift to plant-rich diets among targeted populations. In addition to strategies for mitigating climate change, the CLF supports investigation into adaptation and resilience strategies, including the refinement of emergency response plans and improved food security, especially for at-risk populations. The effects of climate change have been evident for decades now, in the form of extreme weather, rising sea levels and arctic heat surges, to name but a few. These effects play out at the local level, from farming and fishing communities to cities built on the water’s edge, but none of them occur in isolation. The Center is working to identify solutions and to advance change involving both local and global action.