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How we manage the land will either contribute to or help stop climate change

How we manage the land will either contribute to or help stop climate change

Climate change is having a direct impact on the land we depend on for food, freshwater, natural resources and a safe place to live. This is according to the Climate Change and Land report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today.

The report also shows that how we manage the land can either contribute to on-going climate change or it can be part of the solution in slowing down or stopping it.

Read on for key findings from the report.

Who was involved?

The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. This report is one of three special reports that will be published during the Sixth Assessment cycle.

  • The report was prepared by 107 leading scientists from 52 countries.
  • 53% of the authors are from developing countries
  • There were 96 contributing authors and 11 chapter scientists
  • Over 7,000 papers were assessed as part of this study
  • The report received 28,275 comments from expert reviewers and governments

The first report, Global Warming of 1.5C, looks at the impact of a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial levels. And the third report, The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, will be published in September 2019.

What were the key findings?

Human activity is directly impacting over 70% of the global, ice-free land surface. And we use one-quarter to one-half of the land’s potential for the production of food, feed, fibre, timber and energy.

There are clear links between climate change and challenges around food production, extreme weather events and geo-political tensions.

How climate change impacts food

As global populations have increased, our consumption habits have changed. We’ve increased agriculture and forestry productivity to keep pace.

However, this ‘has led to increased greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of natural ecosystems and declining biodiversity’.

A few stats:

  • Agriculture currently accounts for approximately 70% of global fresh-water use
  • There is inequality in food distribution and consumption
    • 2 billion adults are classed as overweight or obese
    • But 821 million people around the world are still undernourished
  • 25-30% of food produced is lost or wasted

‘Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines – especially in the tropics – increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions.’

Priyadarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III

How climate change impacts weather

The report clearly links the extreme weather events that are becoming more common with climate change.

‘The likelihood, intensity and duration of many extreme events can be significantly modified by changes in land conditions, including heat related events such as heat waves and heavy precipitation events.’

Climate Change and Land report

And as the warming continues, climate zones shift poleward, meaning that high-latitude regions will see increased droughts, wildfires and pest outbreaks. And the tropics will see ‘unprecedented climatic conditions by the mid to late 21st century’.

How climate change impacts people

As food supplies are disrupted, extreme weather events become more common and natural resources are exhausted, people will be displaced.

‘Changes in climate can amplify environmentally induced migration both within countries and across borders.’

Climate Change and Land report

The report outlines who is most vulnerable to climate change:

  • Women
  • Young children
  • The elderly
  • The poor

And this is a problem that will affect the entire globe.

Asia and Africa are vulnerable to increased desertification. North America, South America, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and central Asia will likely see wildfires increase. And the tropics and subtropics are most vulnerable to crop yield decline.

What can be done to stop climate change?

Governments, NGOs and individuals need to work together to keep the global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius as outlined in the Paris Agreement. Ideally, we will keep it under 1.5C.

The report highlighted several areas that we need to look at if we want the land to be part of the solution against climate change:

  • Sustainable food production
  • Improved and sustainable forest management
  • Soil organic carbon management
  • Ecosystem conservation and land restoration, including peatlands, wetlands, rangelands, mangroves and forests
  • Reduced deforestation and degradation
  • Reduced food loss and waste through improved harvesting techniques, on-farm storage, infrastructure, transport, packaging, retail and education

As for how individuals can help? A great place to start is to switch to a diet with a low carbon footprint.

‘Balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-greenhouse gas emission systems present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.’

Climate Change and Land Report

We can also do our part to only buy the food we need and use all of it instead of throwing it away.

A final thought

This report by the IPCC will shape the conversations that governments and policymakers have in the upcoming months and years.

It’s important to keep in mind what’s really at stake as these conversations progress. And this paragraph from the report summarises it nicely:

‘Most of the land management-based response options that do not increase competition for land, and almost all options based on value chain management (e.g. dietary choices, reduced post-harvest losses, reduced food waste) and risk management, can contribute to eradicating poverty and eliminating hunger while promoting good health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation, climate action and life on land.’

Climate Change and Land report

This is about preserving a bright and fair future for all of us who depend on the planet for our survival.




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