China, India and the U.S. between them emit more than half of all
Imagine being able to contain greenhouse gas emissions, make fertilizer use more efficient, keep water waste to a minimum and put food on the table for the 10 billion people crowded into the planet’s cities, towns and villages by the end of the century.
This is thinking big: the global view of immediate and local problems. The researchers selected three key areas with the greatest potential for reducing environmental damage while boosting food supply. They thought about water use, food waste, greenhouse gas emissions and polluting run-off from farmland and where fresh thinking could make the most difference in the most efficient way.
The first challenge is to produce more food on existing land. They see an “agricultural yield gap”—that is, a difference between what soil actually produces and what it could produce—in many parts of the world.
Rice and wheat are the crops that create most demand for irrigation, which in turn accounts for 90 percent of global water consumption. More than 70 percent of irrigation happens in India, China, Pakistan and the U.S., and just by concentrating of more efficient use, farmers could deliver the same yield and reduce water demand by 15 percent.
Crops now grown as animal food could supply the energy needs of 4 billion people, and most of this “diet gap” is in the U.S., China and Western Europe.