The researchers ask the question how many people could be fed while keeping a strict standard of environmental sustainability worldwide. These environmental capacities are defined in terms of a set of planetary boundaries -- scientifically defined targets of maximum allowed human interference with processes that regulate the state of the planet. The present study accounts for four of nine boundaries most relevant for agriculture: Biosphere integrity (keeping biodiversity and ecosystems intact), land-system change, freshwater use, and nitrogen flows. Based on a sophisticated simulation model, the impacts of food on these boundaries are scrutinised at a level of spatial and process detail never accomplished before, and moreover aggregated to the entire planet. This analysis demonstrates where and how many boundaries are being violated by current food production and in which ways this development could be reverted through adopting more sustainable forms of agriculture.
The encouraging result is that, in theory, 10 billion people can be fed without compromising the Earth system. This leads to very interesting conclusions, as Johan Rockström, director of PIK points out: "We find that currently, agriculture in many regions is using too much water, land, or fertilizer. Production in these regions thus needs to be brought into line with environmental sustainability. Yet, there are huge opportunities to sustainably increase agricultural production in these and other regions. This goes for large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where more efficient water and nutrient management could strongly improve yields."
Side - Effect - Agriculture - Resilience - Warming
As a positive side effect, sustainable agriculture can increase overall climate resilience while also limiting global warming. In other places, however, farming is so far off local and Earth's boundaries that even more sustainable systems could not completely balance the pressure on...
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