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FABLE: How to get food and land use systems on track

02/03/2023 - Sustainable futures for food and land use systems are only possible with coordinated, major efforts around the world in the next decade. This is what a team of researchers, including PIK, from 20 countries found by using FABLE (Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land-Use and Energy) modeling tools. The results are now published in a Special Issue.
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Berlin could produce much of its vegetables locally

1/27/2023 - Berlin could produce a surprisingly large proportion of its vegetable requirements itself if unused areas were used for this purpose, such as flat roofs, allotments, cemetery areas that are no longer in use, or even supermarket parking lots. Researchers have now calculated this. However, the use of this land is tied to many preconditions.
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Smart nitrogen management can strongly reduce pollution

01/06/2023 - To increase food and feed supply, agriculture has used more and more industrial nitrogen fertilizers and manure. However, over half of these nitrogen inputs to croplands are currently lost to the environment, contributing to air pollution and its related diseases, water eutrophication, soil acidification, climate change, and biodiversity loss. Nitrogen pollution has become a global challenge and next crisis. An international team of researchers explored cost-effective nitrogen mitigation strategies for global croplands in a new study, now published in Nature.
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Global inequality prevents effective climate protection in the land sector

12/08/2022 - Land-based climate protection in line with the Paris Agreement can only succeed by overcoming global inequality, according to a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). This requires a shift towards healthier nutrition, less food waste and lower population growth. It is also necessary to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and forestry at the global level.
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“10 Must Dos” from biodiversity science in the run-up to COP15 UN World Conference on Nature

12/05/2022 - By 2030, 30 per cent of the planet's land and sea areas should be protected. All subsidies leading to the degradation of nature should be reallocated. These are two of the recommendations from the Leibniz Research Network Biodiversity's "10 Must Dos". The researchers are publishing their proposals on the occasion of the United Nations’ COP15 World Conference on Nature, which begins Wednesday in Montreal, Canada.
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Towards food security despite climate crisis and war

09/01/2022 - To secure the world's food supply, a shift toward more plant-based and less animal-based foods is needed, researchers explain in a 'Policy Brief' published today. The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine has triggered a shortage of some agricultural products as well as gas-produced mineral fertilizers. As a result, food prices are rising. At the same time, droughts and flash floods threaten crops worldwide as the climate crisis intensifies. The researchers show the connections - and make concrete recommendations on how a food turnaround could be initiated.
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Living in timber cities could avoid emissions – without using farmland for wood production

08/30/2022 - Housing a growing population in homes made out of wood instead of conventional steel and concrete could avoid more than 100 billion tons of emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 until 2100, a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research shows. These are about 10 percent of the remaining carbon budget for the 2°C climate target. Besides the harvest from natural forests, newly established timber plantations are required for supplying construction wood. While this does not interfere with food production, a loss of biodiversity may occur if not carefully managed, according to the scientists. The study is the first to analyze the impacts of a large-scale transition to timber cities on land use, land-use change emissions, and long-term carbon storage in harvested wood products.
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Healthy soil, healthy planet: Soil quality key for improved crop production and resilient climate

06/09/2022 - Healthy, high-quality soils lead to more robust and stable crop yields and are key for adapting to a changing climate, a new study finds. In China, appropriate efforts to improve soil quality may reduce the decline in crop production induced by climate change by 20%.
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How to avoid eating the world: From degrowth to a sustainable food system transformation

05/16/2022 - Proponents of degrowth have long argued that economic growth is detrimental to the environment. Now scientists show that concerning the food sector, curbing growth alone would not make our food system sustainable – but changing what we eat and putting a price on carbon would. In a first, a group led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) used a quantitative food and land system model to gauge the effects of degrowth and efficiency proposals on the food sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. They find that combining a dietary shift, emissions pricing, and international income transfers could make the world’s food system emissions-neutral by the end of the 21st century – providing at the same time a healthier nutrition for a growing world population.
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Fungi-based meat alternatives to help save Earth’s forests

05/04/22 - Substituting just a fifth of meat from cattle with microbial protein - a meat alternative produced in fermentation tanks - by 2050 could halve deforestation, a new analysis by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now published in Nature finds. The market-ready meat alternative is very similar in taste and texture, but is a biotech product which – by replacing beef – involves much less land resources and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and land-use change. This goes under the assumption of a growing world population’s increasing appetite for beefy bites, and it is the first time researchers have projected the development of these market-ready meat substitutes into the future, assessing their potential impact on the environment.
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Food crisis due to Ukraine war calls for demand-side action: less animal products, less waste, and greening EU agricultural policy

03/18/2022 - The global food system is impacted by the war in Ukraine, adding to the direct humanitarian and security crisis caused by the Russian aggression. Ukraine and Russia are major producers of grains and fertilizers, yet their exports are at risk of getting disrupted. However, agricultural policy-makers – like the EU ministers meeting on Monday – should not abandon sustainable farming practices just to increase grain production, a team of scientists argues. They propose three key measures to cope with the shocks. In a statement published today they highlight that, instead of focusing only on the supply side for e.g. animal feed, it is changing the demand side which can lead to both a more resilient and more sustainable global food system.
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Taxing Meat can Protect the Environment: New Study by Oxford, PIK, and TU Berlin

17/01/2022 - A 20-60 % increase in prices for meat through a tax could be an important lever for aligning Western diets with environmental goals and can be designed such that low-income households and farmers are compensated.
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PIK Podcast: A plate full of sustainability - Chef Megha Kohli and scientist Hermann Lotze-Campen take a mouthful

12/20/2021 - A new episode of the podcast "Sustain Ability. The Potsdam Dialogues" is out. From cauliflower to climate change: Chef Megha Kohli from New Delhi, India, and agricultural economist Hermann Lotze-Campen from the Potsdam Institute talk about what’s cooking in our current food system.
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China’s crops at risk: Climate change boosts spread of crop pests and diseases

12/09/2021 - Crop pests and diseases in China have significantly increased, with climate change being one of the relevant drivers, new research in Nature Food finds.
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Climate change to stir up global agriculture within next decade, NASA/PIK study finds

11/02/2021 - New computer simulations predict deep changes in growing conditions affecting the productivity of major crops already within the next 10 years if current global warming trends continue. Maize crop yields are projected to decline by almost a quarter by the end the century, while wheat could potentially see global yield increases of about 17%. Current key breadbasket regions will see severe changes much quicker than previously expected, requiring farmers around the world to adapt to new climate realities now.
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New report from the Science Panel for the Amazon

09/28/2021 - The Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) released an Executive Summary of the Amazon Assessment Report this week, a comprehensive scientific assessment of the state of the Amazon Basin. The report includes recommendations for sustainable development pathways for policy makers and governments. Over 200 renowned scientists from the Amazon and global partners, including scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, came together as the Science Panel for the Amazon to develop this report.
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FirEUrisk: PIK joins EU project to analyze and manage wildfires

06/03/2021 - The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), along with 38 partner institutions from 19 countries, will develop a science-based strategy to manage, monitor and analyze major forest fires in Europe. Funded by the European Union, the FirEUrisk project brings together researchers, practitioners, policymakers and citizens to study the vulnerability and resilience of communities and countries to wildfires in Northern, Central and Mediterranean Europe. The overarching goal of the project is to adapt fire management strategies to expected climate and socio-economic changes.
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Science podcast launched: "Sustain Ability. The Potsdam Dialogues"

05/18/2021 - Science for your ears: The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has launched its very own podcast. The dialogue series ‘Sustain Ability. The Potsdam Dialogues - Science for a Safe Tomorrow’ brings together leading thinkers and doers to discuss how to stabilize our climate and advance the transition to sustainability. The first episode features EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and PIK Director Johan Rockström.
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Few realistic scenarios left to limit global warming to 1.5°C

05/14/2021 - Of the over 400 climate scenarios assessed in the 1.5°C report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), only around 50 scenarios avoid significantly overshooting 1.5°C. Of those only around 20 make realistic assumptions on mitigation options, for instance the rate and scale of carbon removal from the atmosphere or extent of tree planting, a new study shows. All 20 scenarios need to pull at least one mitigation lever at "challenging" rather than "reasonable" levels, according to the analysis. Hence the world faces a high degree of risk of overstepping the 1.5°C limit. The realistic window for meeting the 1.5°C target is very rapidly closing.
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Climate change is making it harder to get a good cup of coffee

04/14/2021 - Ethiopia may produce less specialty coffee and more rather bland tasting varieties in the future. This is the result of a new study by an international team of researchers that looked at the peculiar effects climate change has on Africa's largest coffee producing nation. Their results are relevant both for the country's millions of smallholder farmers, who earn more on specialty coffee than on ordinary coffee, as well as for baristas and coffee aficionados around the world.
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The future of Lower Saxony: Expert report with PIK participation published

03/25/2021 - Climate change, advancing digitalization and demographic changes: These are just three examples of current social challenges for the future of Lower Saxony. On the initiative of the state government, an independent scientific commission with various researchers - including PIK researcher Hermann Lotze-Campen - has developed recommendations for the state. Today, the Commission Niedersachsen 2030 handed over its prepared report to the state government.
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When the flames are out, danger continues: Cascading effects of wildfires

03/15/2021 - After extreme weather events like droughts and wildfires, it often only takes small additional natural hazards like rainfall to trigger further disastrous cascading hazards, a new study finds. A team of scientists based in Potsdam and Berlin analyzed the devastating forest fires in Australia from 2019 to 2020, which - in their intensity and severity – are likely linked to human-made global warming. The researchers reveal that the following much needed rain caused severe further damage, gravely impacting both people and nature.
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Limiting water stress risks: irrigation management key for bioenergy production to mitigate climate change

03/08/2021 - To avoid a substantial increase in water scarcity, biomass plantations for energy production need sustainable water management, a new study shows. Bioenergy is frequently considered one of the options to reduce greenhouse gases for achieving the Paris climate goals, especially if combined with capturing the CO2 from biomass power plants and storing it underground. Yet growing large-scale bioenergy plantations worldwide does not just require land, but also considerable amounts of freshwater for irrigation – which can be at odds with respecting Earth’s Planetary Boundaries. Scientists now calculated in their to date most detailed computer simulations how much additional water stress could result for people worldwide in a scenario of conventional irrigation and one of sustainable freshwater use.
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Farmers in focus: Effects of elevated CO2 concentration on crops

12/11/2020 - Agriculture is a key socio-economic sector that both influences the climate and is exposed to climate impacts. To reach targets on food security, protection of biodiversity and the natural environment as well as on climate mitigation for the global common land, it is crucial to know how and where climate change and increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 affect crops. Decision makers and farmers need to quantify the risks to their sector and evaluate sustainable adaptation and mitigation strategies. An international team of agro-climatic experts, including PIK researcher Christoph Müller, has reviewed existing crop models that are used for these climate change risk assessments: While the size of CO2 fertilization effects is still uncertain to some extent, their results, published in Nature Food today, suggest that presenting crop modelling results without accounting elevated CO2 simulations are obsolete and don't offer added value to decision makers.
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Low food prices, high energy use: The pros and cons of emerging technology in our food system

12/08/2020 - An international team of scientists, including PIK researchers, has identified the potential impacts emerging from food system technologies in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals. In a new study, that has been published in Lancet Planetary Health, they find that while new technologies and innovation can help fix some issues with the food system, they also have far-reaching impacts. These can cause disruption and unintended consequences, some beneficial and some not, for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Food system innovation will be key to succeed, but new technologies need to be guided by science-based targets to avoid trade-offs and rebound effects.
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FABLE Report 2020: Pathways to sustainable land-use and food systems

The Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land-Use, and Energy (FABLE) Consortium has presented an updated plan on how countries can meet mid-century objectives on food security, healthy diets, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, forest conservation, and freshwater use. In part coordinated by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), FABLE's mission is to mobilize top knowledge institutions from 20 countries to support the development of decision-support tools and long-term pathways towards sustainable food and land-use systems.
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Starved, stuffed and squandered: New study reveals consequences of decades of global nutrition transition

11/18/2020 - Just a handful of rice and beans – a part of our world is starved. Hawaiian Pizza and ice-cream – another part of our world is stuffed, throwing away food every day. This gap is likely to worsen, while food waste will increase and pressure on the environment will go up, a new study shows. Researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) assessed the consequences if the current nutrition transition, from scarce starch-based diets towards processed foods and animal products, continues – the calculations combine, for the first time, estimates for under- and overweight, food composition and waste. Their findings provide a startling look ahead: By 2050, more than 4 billion people could be overweight, 1.5 billion of them obese, while 500 million people continue to be underweight.
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Larger part of Amazon rainforest at risk of tipping

10/05/2020 A larger part of the Amazon rainforest than previously thought is at risk of crossing a tipping point where it could become a savanna-type ecosystem, according to a new study. The research, based on computer models and data analysis, is published by a team of scientists including Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in the journal Nature Communications. Rainforests are very sensitive to changes that affect rainfall for extended periods. If rainfall drops below a certain threshold, areas may shift into a savanna state.
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Indian monsoon can be predicted better after volcanic eruptions

09/18/2020 - Large volcanic eruptions can help to forecast the monsoon over India – the seasonal rainfall that is key for the country’s agriculture and thus for feeding one billion people. As erratic as they are, volcanic eruptions improve the predictability, an Indian-German research team finds. What seems to be a paradox is in fact due to a stronger coupling between the monsoon over large parts of South and South-East Asia and the El Niño phenomenon after an eruption. Combining data from meteorological observations, climate records, computer model simulations, and geological archives such as tree-rings, corals and ice-cores from past millennia of Earth history, the researchers found that a synchronization of the monsoon with the strongest mode of natural climate variability, the El Niño, makes it easier to anticipate the strength of seasonal rainfall in the Indian subcontinent.
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Reversing the Loss of Biodiversity: Researchers Present Ambitious Plan

09/10/2020 - The rapid extinction of animal and plant species could be reversed by 2050 – by doing two things: Investing in better land-use management and transforming agriculture and the food industry. A new study by an international team of scientists, including Hermann Lotze-Campen, Alexander Popp, and Florian Humpenöder from the Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research, lays out what it will take to reverse the current alarming trends of biodiversity loss – without endangering other important Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly.
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