Feeding ten billion people is possible within four terrestrial planetary boundaries

Dieter Gerten*, Vera Heck, Jonas Jägermeyr, Benjamin Leon Bodirsky, Ingo Fetzer, Mika Jalava, Matti Kummu, Wolfgang Lucht, Johan Rockström, Sibyll Schaphoff, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Global agriculture puts heavy pressure on planetary boundaries, posing the challenge to achieve future food security without compromising Earth system resilience. On the basis of process-detailed, spatially explicit representation of four interlinked planetary boundaries (biosphere integrity, land-system change, freshwater use, nitrogen flows) and agricultural systems in an internally consistent model framework, we here show that almost half of current global food production depends on planetary boundary transgressions. Hotspot regions, mainly in Asia, even face simultaneous transgression of multiple underlying local boundaries. If these boundaries were strictly respected, the present food system could provide a balanced diet (2,355 kcal per capita per day) for 3.4 billion people only. However, as we also demonstrate, transformation towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns could support 10.2 billion people within the planetary boundaries analysed. Key prerequisites are spatially redistributed cropland, improved water–nutrient management, food waste reduction and dietary changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-208
Number of pages9
JournalNature Sustainability
Volume3
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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    Gerten, D., Heck, V., Jägermeyr, J., Bodirsky, B. L., Fetzer, I., Jalava, M., Kummu, M., Lucht, W., Rockström, J., Schaphoff, S., & Schellnhuber, H. J. (2020). Feeding ten billion people is possible within four terrestrial planetary boundaries. Nature Sustainability, 3(3), 200-208. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0465-1