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Land Use: the aggravator and saviour to climate change and food insecurity

The newest report from IPCC highlights the importance of the issue of sustainability in land use in order for us to combat climate change.

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by Isabella Engberg

In the newest report from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a perspective on the Climate Crisis emerged which confirms many scientists’ existing warnings on the interconnectedness of climate change, land degradation, and the world’s upcoming food insecurity. It highlights the necessity to focus on the main issue of sustainability in land use in order for the Earth to combat climate change. Below is a short overview of the report.

Land has a critical role to play in the climate system. The world’s land can both worsen and relieve climate change. Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, explains: “Agriculture, forestry and other types of land account for 23% of human greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry.” In other words, land use by humans leads to a considerable amount of our total greenhouse gas emissions.

Urgent action is needed to battle desertification and land degradation. For a long time, more people in the world has meant a need for more soil in order to account and provide for food production. Incorrect use of the land, however, has led to land degradation. Climate change will exacerbate land degradation, and land degradation, with its lesser ability to absorb carbon, will, in turn, exacerbate climate change. Kiyoto Tanabe from the Task Force on the National Greenhouse Gas Inventories of the IPCC explains: “In a future with more intensive rainfall the rise of soil erosion on cropland increases, and sustainable land management is a way to protect communities from the detrimental impacts of this soil erosion and landslides. However, there are limits to what can be done, so in other cases degradation might be irreversible”. To avoid such a scenario, the IPCC calls for urgent action to be undertaken by politicians.

Climate change will exacerbate land degradation, and land degradation, with its lesser ability to absorb carbon, will in turn exacerbate climate change.

Climate change affects all areas of food security: production, obtaining food, nutrition, and stability of supply. Another Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, Priyadarshi Shukla, explains that global warming will increasingly put food production at risk, which will, in turn, lead to “increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions.” Some things, in this regard, can be changed for the better by consumer behaviour. About one-third of all produced food is wasted. However, it varies from region to region how much is lost – it is especially a problem needing solving in the lifestyle and diets present in Western countries. Reducing food waste by choosing more sustainable and balanced diets featuring local food, less meat, and more plant-based foods would reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably.


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