Climate change and food system activities: a review of emission trends, climate impacts and the effects of dietary change

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Food system activities are inextricably linked with climate and weather, environmental resources and human health. This article reviews the contribution of food system activities to climate change, the positive feedback on food systems and the effects of dietary change on food system outcomes. It combines a systematic literature review with analyses of publicly available international data. The article shows that whereas emissions from food production continue to increase in most regions, emissions from land use change have been decreasing. Despite these decreasing trends, emissions from land use change are huge and in some regions are greater than emissions from food production. Climate change also affects food system activities and there is strong scientific consensus that it negatively affects food production, especially in Africa and Asia. However, from the available scientific evidence, the impacts of climate change on post-production activities are unclear. The article also shows that dietary change as a transformation strategy has large potential for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions but, regionally, is associated with substantial environmental trade-offs. Despite its potential, the costs and feasibility associated with dietary change are not well understood and require further research. Strategies to reduce emissions should focus on further reduction in land use change or stopping land use change altogether, because the current rate of reduction is inadequate to achieve a targeted reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Strategies must also address meat consumption in those world regions and social systems where it is excessive, to usher in dietary changes away from animal products and towards consumption of plant products instead.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationRome
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789292662172
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Publication series

NameIFAD Research Series


  • climate change
  • food system
  • dietary change
  • Greenhouse gas emission


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