How do we feed 10 billion people by 2050? Part I

The question about the future of our planet.

There is a big shortfall between the amount of food we produce today and the amount needed to feed everyone in 2050. There will be nearly 10 billion people on Earth by 2050—about 3 billion more mouths to feed than there were in 2010. As incomes rise, people will increasingly consume more resource-intensive, animal-based foods. At the same time, we urgently need to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agricultural production and stop conversion of remaining forests to agricultural land.
Feeding 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, then, requires closing three gaps:

  • A 56 percent food gap between crop calories produced in 2010 and those needed in 2050 under “business as usual” growth;
  • A 593 million-hectare land gap (an area nearly twice the size of India) between global agricultural land area in 2010 and expected agricultural expansion by 2050; and
  • An 11-gigaton GHG mitigation gap between expected agricultural emissions in 2050 and the target level needed to hold global warming below 2oC (3.6°F), the level necessary for preventing the worst climate impacts.

wrr-food-graphic-01On our Christmas holidays in Portugal we found this great article including beautiful charts and diagrams about sustainable food production on the page written by Janet Ranganathan, Richard Waite, Tim Searchinger and Craig Hanson.
We would like to share the content with you in the best possible way and therefore decided to break its content down into its 5 main topics (the authors call it “courses”) so you can digest it more easily. The full article can be found here: How To Feed 10 Billion People. Let’s get started with part 1 then.

First Course: Reduce Growth In Demand for Food and Other Agricultural Products

1.  Reduce food loss and waste.

Approximately one-quarter of food produced for human consumption goes uneaten. Loss and waste occurs all along the food chain, from field to fork. Reducing food loss and waste by 25 percent by 2050 would close the food gap by 12 percent, the land gap by 27 percent and the GHG mitigation gap by 15 percent. Actions to take include measuring food waste, setting reduction targets, improving food storage in developing countries and streamlining expiration labels.wrr-food-figure-2

2. Shift to healthier, more sustainable diets.

Consumption of ruminant meat (beef, lamb and goat) is projected to rise 88 percent between 2010 and 2050. Beef, the most commonly consumed ruminant meat, is resource-intensive to produce, requiring 20 times more land and emitting 20 times more GHGs per gram of edible protein than common plant proteins, such as beans, peas and lentils. Limiting ruminant meat consumption to 52 calories per person per day by 2050—about 1.5 hamburgers per week—would reduce the GHG mitigation gap by half and nearly close the land gap. In North America this would require reducing current beef and lamb consumption by nearly half. Actions to take include improving the marketing of plant-based foods, improving meat substitutes and implementing policies that favor consumption of plant-based foods.wrr-food-figure-3


3. Avoid competition from bioenergy for food crops and land.

If bioenergy competes with food production by using food or energy crops or dedicated land, it widens the food, land and GHG mitigation gaps. Biomass is also an inefficient energy source: Using all the harvested biomass on Earth in the year 2000—including crops, crop residues, grass eaten by livestock and wood—would only provide about 20 percent of global energy needs in 2050. Phasing out existing biofuel production on agricultural lands would reduce the food gap from 56 to 49 percent. Actions to take include eliminating biofuel subsidies and not treating bioenergy as “carbon-neutral” in renewable energy policies and GHG trading programs.wrr-food-figure-4

4. Achieve replacement-level fertility rates.

The food gap is mostly driven by population growth, of which half is expected to occur in Africa, and one third in Asia. Most of the world is close to achieving replacement-level fertility by 2050 (2.1 children per woman). Sub-Saharan Africa is the exception, with a current fertility rate above 5 children per woman and a projected rate of 3.2 in 2050. If sub-Saharan Africa achieved replacement-level fertility rates along with all other regions by 2050, it would close the land gap by one quarter and the GHG mitigation gap by 17 percent while reducing hunger. Actions to take include achieving the three forms of social progress that have led all others to voluntarily reduce fertility rates: increasing educational opportunities for girls, expanding access to reproductive health services, and reducing infant and child mortality so that parents do not need to have as many children to ensure survival of their desired number.wrr-food-figure-5

We hope you found these information as interesting as we did and hopefully tell more people about them. Still one of the easiest ways to do something sustainably good for our planet is to shift from an animal towards a plant-based diet. But this of course you know already.
The part 2 will follow soon first published through our newsletter. Until then we wish you a grat time. Let’s make 2019 a more sustainable year than the previous one.


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