The IPCC report on Climate is Here. The News is Bad. But We Knew That.

by Anna Lappé


It’s time to take action on every sector, including food.


As I wrote in Diet for a Hot Planet, food systems are at once climate casualties, culprits—and a key to the cure. The food system is responsible for an estimated third of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly a significant source of nitrous oxide and methane emissions, gases with many times the heat trapping qualities of carbon dioxide. Research in the intervening years has only underscored the need to rethink food systems if we are to get the climate crisis under control. As a recent study exposed, even if we got everything right in terms of limiting emissions from other sectors; we ignore food at our peril. But how? Here are some of our ideas!  

As our Twitter feed fills with grief and alarm about the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, we can heed the call of labor organizer Joe Hill: “Don’t Mourn, Organize.” We might amend this sentiment in an era of climate grief amidst an acute pandemic: we can mourn and organize.


  1. Decarbonize the Food System, Fund Agroecology: All around the world public and private funders are stepping up to support the research, advocacy, and learning necessary to unlink food production from an addition to energy-intensive synthetic fertilizer, petrochemicals, and unhealthy monocultures. Knitted together under the umbrella of “agroecology,” you can find these efforts in every corner of the world. Learn more at or watch this short video with voices of agroecology from around the world. 
  2. Take on the Petrochemicals in Food: Some of the biggest players in the food system are agrochemical giants like Bayer and Syngenta. Pushing antiquated and toxic pesticides, their products are destroying biodiversity and contributing to the climate crisis. Join Pesticide Action Network North America to be part of the movement of people around the world calling for the abolition of petrochemicals on our farms. 
  3. Target Agribusiness: Big Oil companies deserve our wrath, for sure. It’s clear that these companies have known for decades that their practices would lead us off this climate cliff, but agribusiness companies too need to feel the force of our fury. Companies like ADM and Cargill have been driving deforestation in climate-critical regions for decades. Learn more about taking on these food giants at RAN. Industrial meat giants, like Tyosno and JBS, are also deadly contributors to the climate crisis—not to mention animal welfare and human rights abuses. Learn more about factory farming and the environment at
  4. Focus on the Financing. These companies are only able to keep operating because they’ve got the immense reserves of the world’s banking and insurance industries behind them. For years advocacy groups have been working to undermine this financial support. Rainforest Action Network, where I’ve served on the board for 10+ years, is just one of these groups. Learn more about Banking on Climate Chaos here.  
  5. Support Farmers Doing it Right: Thankfully, there are countless organizations and thousands of farmers who are embracing a way of farming that’s good for people and planet. Here are some of the fabulous groups doing this essential work: SAAFON, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Black Farmer Fund, Soul Fire Farm, and so many more. 
  6. Eat with the Climate at Heart: On September 21st, my mother’s new edition of her 1971 classic, Diet for a Small Planet, will be published. A celebration of planet- and plant-centered cuisine and a call to arms that if you care about fixing food you have to engage in democracy, the book will hopefully inspire you to think differently and (filled with 85 recipes) to cook!  
  7. Bust the Myth that We Need Industrial Agriculture to Feed the World: An oldie but a goodie, our Food MythBusters video takes on this entrenched myth.