Latest IPCC Report Urges Immediate Drastic Changes to Land Management

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a special report on “Climate Change and Land”. The report is a result of 2 years study by a team of 107 scientists from 52 countries who considered more than 7000 studies in the preparation of the report.

The report noted that while land is under growing human pressure as a result of factors such as population growth, climate change is adding significant pressure which is also undermining food security.

Whilst much attention is focused on the production of greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and transport, agriculture, food production and deforestation are also major drivers of climate change with up to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the land.

About a quarter of the Earth’s ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation. Soil erosion from agricultural fields is estimated to be currently far higher than the soil formation rate. Climate change exacerbates land degradation, particularly in low-lying coastal areas, river deltas, drylands and in permafrost areas and has led to expansion of arid climate zones and contraction of polar climate zones. It has affected food security due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events

People living in already degraded or desertified areas are increasingly negatively affected by climate change with extreme weather and changing climate likely to lead to increased displacement, disrupted food chains, threatened livelihoods and contribute to conflict.

The report drew attention to the need to address food consumption patterns, noting that whilst about 2 billion adults are now overweight or obese, an estimated 821 million people are still undernourished, that 25-30% of food produced is wasted and that changes in diet to include more plant-based foods, presents a major opportunity for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health. (Beef for example is particularly resource-intensive, consuming 20 times as much land and producing 20 times more greenhouse gases per gram of edible protein than vegetable proteins, such as beans, peas or lentils)

As in the recent special IPCC report on limiting global warming to 1.5C, the urgency of addressing the issues was emphasised, with any delay in taking action resulting in irreversible impacts on ecosystems, and an acceleration in global warming with increasingly significant economic impacts on many countries in many regions of the world.

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