A new study at Humboldt University Berlin (HU), Germany published in the magazine Nature addresses this dilemma. It examines the fundamental question of what changes in land use contribute to climate protection by meeting global food needs while counteracting greenhouse gas emissions.

The study shows that previous methods often strongly underestimate the negative impact of land use and eating habits on climate change. According to Tim Beringer, co-author of the study and a visiting scholar at the Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys) at HU, “a fundamental problem is that many of the calculations neglect the fact that land that is used for agriculture would also have a great potential for carbon sequestration if it was not used for food production”.

Beringer argues that such potential carbon stores should be taken into account in scientific models in the future – namely, as missed improvements in the climate balance.