World Resources Report
CREATING A SUSTAINABLE FOOD FUTURE
A Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 Billion People by 2050
Can we feed the world without destroying the planet?
The ‘World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future’ shows that it is possible – but there is no silver bullet.
The report offers a five-course menu of solutions to ensure we can feed 10 billion people by 2050 without increasing emissions, fueling deforestation or exacerbating poverty. Intensive research and modeling examining the nexus of the food system, economic development, and the environment show why each of the 22 items on the menu is important and quantifies how far each solution can get us. This site presents text from the Synthesis Report, with download links to full chapters from the complete report.
As the global population grows from 7 billion in 2010 to a projected 9.8 billion in 2050, and incomes grow across the developing world, overall food demand is on course to increase by more than 50 percent, and demand for animal-based foods by nearly 70 percent. Yet today, hundreds of millions of people remain hungry, agriculture already uses almost half of the world’s vegetated land, and agriculture and related land-use change generate one-quarter of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The Menu for a Sustainable Food Future
- Course 1: Reduce Growth in Demand for Food and Other Agricultural Products (Synthesis)The size of the food challenge—and the associated environmental and economic challenges—depends on the scale of the increase in demand for crops and animal-based foods by midcentury. The food, land, and GHG mitigation gaps are derived from reasonable estimates of business-as-usual growth in demand for crops and livestock. Yet such levels of growth are not inevitable. Course 1 menu items explore ways to reduce this projected growth in socially and economically beneficial ways.
- Course 2: Increase Food Production Without Expanding Agricultural Land (Synthesis)In addition to the demand-reduction measures addressed in Course 1, the world must boost the output of food on existing agricultural land. To approach the goal of net-zero expansion of agricultural land, under realistic scenarios, improvements in crop and pasture productivity must exceed historical rates of yield gains.
- Course 3: Protect and Restore Natural Ecosystems and Limit Agricultural Land-Shifting (Synthesis)This course focuses on the land-management efforts that must complement food demand-reduction efforts and productivity gains to avoid the harms of agricultural land expansion. One guiding principle is the need to make land-use decisions that enhance efficiency for all purposes—not just agriculture but also carbon storage and other ecosystem services. Another principle is the need to explicitly link efforts to boost agricultural yield gains with protection of natural lands.
- Course 4: Increase Fish Supply (Synthesis)Fish, including finfish and shellfish, provide only small percentages of total global calories and protein, but they contribute 17 percent of animal-based protein, and are particularly important for more than 3 billion people in developing countries. We project fish consumption to rise 58 percent between 2010 and 2050, but the wild fish catch peaked at 94 million tons in the mid-1990s and has since stagnated or perhaps declined. This course proposes ways to improve wild fisheries management and raise the productivity and environmental performance of aquaculture.
- Course 5: Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agricultural Production (Synthesis)Agricultural production emissions arise from livestock farming, application of nitrogen fertilizers, rice cultivation, and energy use. These production processes are traditionally regarded as hard to control. In general, our estimates of mitigation potential in this course are more optimistic than others’, partly because many analyses have not fully captured the opportunities for productivity gains and partly because we factor in promising potential for technological innovations.
- Scope of the Challenge and Menu of Possible Solutions (Synthesis)This World Resources Report addresses a fundamental question: How can the world adequately feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050 in ways that help combat poverty, allow the world to meet climate goals, and reduce pressures on the broader environment?
- Cross-Cutting Policies for a Sustainable Food Future (Synthesis)The menu items for a sustainable food future, described and analyzed in our five courses, focus heavily on technical opportunities. However, menu items cannot be implemented in isolation, and they are all subject to a variety of cross-cutting public and private policies.