Climate Change and Land – the IPCC Special Report

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Climate Change and Land – the IPCC Special Report

The land is indispensable to human lives. It’s where we live, work, grow our food, and get our water source from. The land is also a source and sink of carbon emissions. Agriculture, forestry, and other land use produce gas emissions, but these emissions can be offset by planting more trees.

This special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looks at greenhouse gases emission in relation to the use of land, food production, and forest and land management.

To support the growing population there has been a considerable increase of food, fresh water, timber, fibre, energy consumption, which increased the demands on land. Increased food production has raised consumption levels and obesity rates.

Food production especially meat, cereals, fibre, and crops have increased by 240% from 1961, and food wastes account for 25% of the total food production.

Intensive use of land has depleted water deposits and can result in desertification. While the sea-level rise and more intense cyclones can cause soil degradation in some regions.

Changes in climate can lead to migration within countries and even across borders because of food scarcity, extreme natural events, damages to livelihoods which can also give rise to chaos and conflicts.

Data has also shown that air temperatures have rapidly increased since the pre-industrial period. The increase is twice than the average global increase.

This has resulted in an increase and duration of heatwaves particularly in the Mediterranean, west and northeastern Asia, many parts of South America, and much of Africa. Increased frequency of dust storms is also observed in Arabian Peninsula, Middle East and Central Asia regions.

Climate change has caused the expansion of deserts and diminishing of polar areas and as a result, has affected plants and animals in their habitats – polar animals are moving to higher and colder grounds and tropical animals and plants are either dying of drought or moving to more habitable areas where there is water supply.

The report has cited other negative impacts of climate change such as increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, droughts, water scarcity, dry spells, sea-level rise, storm surges, and thawing of permafrost.  These occurrences will negatively influence food production as well in terms of yield of crops and growth of animals for food. There is also strong evidence that pests and diseases will also rise because of climate change.

Mitigation and adaptation measures

The report presents mitigation and adaptation measures that can help buffer the effects of climate change. Some will produce almost immediate results while other measures can take decades to take effect. Adaptations and mitigations that are region or area-specific are already being implemented.

Below are examples of climate adaptation and mitigation measures that are discussed in depth in the report:

Conservation of wetlands, peatlands, mangroves, and rangelands and forests which stores and absorbs large amounts of carbon and has an immediate impact. Reforestation and afforestation, and reclamation of degraded soils are measures that take time to deliver result but will have long-term impacts.

Improved management of croplands and grazing and increase carbon content in soil can contribute to increased food production and more dietary choices, reduction of food loss and wastes does require a change to land use and conversion. These options if implemented can have an immediate impact in mitigating climate change.

Combating desertification and restoring degraded lands are region-specific. It includes the use of micro-irrigation and using drought-resilient plants. These adaptation measures can have many benefits like enhance soil fertility and increase carbon storage while contributing to food production and security.

Tree-planting using climate-resilient and low-water need tree species. This creates ‘green walls’ and windbreaks that can reduce sand and dust storm, wind erosion, and brings additional benefits such as carbon sinks, improve micro-climates and soil nutrients, and water retention.

Food systems from production to consumption can be scaled up to offer significant adaptation and mitigation from climate change. Reduction of food waste and switching to plant-based foods like grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds not only frees up land and reduce greenhouse gas emission but can bring a lot of health benefits.

Reducing land degradation through the application of organic farming by growing of green manure crops leaving them to wither so they could serve as mulch or enrich soil nutrients while reducing soil erosion.

The above are some examples of climate adaptation and mitigation measures and many others are discussed in the report.

The last part of the report discusses the governance systems and policies that will enable implementation of these climate mitigations and adaptation measures.

You may read the full report by clicking on the image below:

climate change and land
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