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Climate Change and Land Report – Why this report is important and why we all should care about land use…

The Climate Change and Land report was published on 9th August 2019. It is the second of a series of three special Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports: the first one was the “Global Warming of 1.5°C”. The third one will be “The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate”.

In addition to the fact that it is the first global report on land use, it could also be described as the most ‘inclusive’ IPCC report to date. The report has more contributor scientists from the global south than the global north and 40% female scientists. Simultaneously, this highlights the growing importance of the topic, and the rising interest in the question in the global south.

The body of knowledge on climate change, its causes, consequences and mechanisms is already extensive. I think that what we need is more awareness raising, and more climate action, for a better future for everyone. Therefore, every new IPCC reports is a good occasion to debate the climatic crisis.

Land use and Climate Change

The first chapter is a general introduction to the issue. It presents the scope of the report and the related topics to land use that will be undertaken. Land use describes the activities, arrangements and inputs that humans use to modify the land cover according to their interests and needs. These activities could result in more greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, or on the contrary, result in a decrease of greenhouse gases. Since humans directly affect around 70% of the global ice-free land surface, this issue and its impact on the climate and the climate action is of extreme importance.

Land use and the climate

The second chapter of the report treats the land-climate interaction in detail, building on the accumulated knowledge of the previous IPCC reports. The land use and climate change interactions are difficult to forecast, as they intertwine in a complex net of casualties and action-reaction. Nonetheless, the general trends are well described in the report, as well as their potential outcomes.

The growing human pressure on land is driving the greenhouse emissions to increase beyond the fixed limits to mitigate climate change. Moreover, the land is used more intensively and extensively to satisfy an increasing food demand through agricultural production. Compared to the pre-industrial levels, this caused the mean temperature over land to increase by 1.5°C, compared to the global 1°C increase over land and ocean. 

The pressure on the land comes from increasing pressure for resources and agricultural products. for example, since 1961, the total production of cereals increased by 240%. This results in increased land degradation and adverse effects on the ecosystems, and interacts also with the climate.

According to the report, the current changing trends of the climate will have potential benefits to agriculture in high latitude areas, as it will expand the arable lands in the north. But eventually, it will trigger a chain of events (known as feedback loops) such as snow melting and release of methane and CO2 in the atmosphere that will lead to further warming and climate extreme events in many parts of the world. These consequences will negatively affect land use and agricultural production in many areas, such as drylands. This will probably exacerbate the negative land use practices even more. It could also put the food security of large populations at risk.

Land degradation

Chapters 3 and 4 of the report treat the topic of desertification and land degradation. In addition to the study of the ongoing processes and their impacts, they present future scenarios and projections.

Among the consequences of climate change, the intensification of the hydrological cycle will lead to more intense rainfalls which in turn will result in increased soil erosion and land degradation. In dry regions of the world, land degradation will happen because of decreased rainfall and increased warming and leading to desertification. In both cases, it will cause the loss of fertile soil and vegetation. The report claims that a sustainable management of land could prevent land and forest degradation. It would alsod contribute to reversing the negative effects of climate change. In turn, this could support the implementation and achievements of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and even create benefits for adaptation measures. The three last chapters (5-6-7) focus on food security, sustainable development and risk management. They present useful insights on the current opportunities to limit the adverse effects of the combined land use-climate change effect. They also present how new policies and governance approaches could lead to a more sustainable way of living. That could avoid a climatic worst case scenario, and preserve the environmental rights of future generations.

We are on a crossroad

My take home message from the report, is that the situation of land use is critical. Humans are approaching a crossroad, in which we will have to choose a development path. This choice will have huge consequences on the climate, positively or negatively, and consequently on humanity’s future ways of life.

Accordingly, humans need to adopt a less economist evaluation of the value of lands and land exploitation in general. Perusing pure economic profit-driven interests will only lead to the further degradation of the environment and destabilization of the climate. Knowing that the consequences of such actions will not be distributed equally means that there will be winners and losers.  This leaves no doubt that the current exploitation of the earth and its resources will not change spontaneously.

Sources:
Press release https://www.ipcc.ch/2019/08/08/land-is-a-critical-resource_srccl/
Climate change and land, summary for policymakers: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2019/08/4.-SPM_Approved_Microsite_FINAL.pdf
Climate change and Land https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl-report-download-page/

Khalil TEBER

Author: Khalil TEBER

Global Change Ecology master student. Interested in Climate Change and Political Ecology.

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  1. Global Warming Intervention

    Preamble

    The climate emergency has not abated and, despite the best efforts of many individuals and countries, it appears to have had little effect on carbon level rises.

    The Statement of Species Rights below is provided because it is evident that we need to have some common ground as to what we are trying to achieve and how we can do that whilst still preserving what we still have.

    The Global Warming Action Plan below places the responsibility for action on everyone and every country. The trouble with emissions is that it is too easy for a perpetrator to ignore their act – I mean once the smoke belches away in the wind I can turn away and pretend it’s not my problem. The steps below provide to-do checklist that puts the onus on everyone and it can be initiated now. It also provides an incentive for people and entities to protect and develop those systems which will reduce and even reverse carbon emission levels.

    Statement of Species Rights

    Species have a right to life.

    Species have a right to live in their natural habitat.

    Species have a right to a habitat that is natural and agreeable to their existence.

    Humankind has a reasonable obligation to protect the rights of all species including his own.

    Global Warming Action Plan (GWAP)

    A pre-industrial target carbon level (Pit-C) is to be set as per the year 1778.

    Countries are to be assessed for the following;

    Current carbon emissions (CCO)
    Current C02 emissions (CO2)

    Countries are to be rated to ascertain their Offset Obligations (OO) based on a ratio derived by comparing CCO to CO2. The Pit-C target will be spread over an agreed time frame of no more than 10 years.

    Countries will be levied as per their OO ratio. The higher the carbon level the higher the levy.

    Levy payments will be used to finance existing and new producers according to their contribution to the Pit-C target.

    Sanctions*

    If a country refuses to participate in GWAP then the country will face punitive actions by supportive countries including diplomatic and trade sanctions.

    If the above guidelines are not implemented by 1/7/20 the people of the world will act as per the punitive actions below as per the schedule – From 1/7/20 to 31/12/20 no travel will be made to offending country/s. From 1/1/21 to 30/6/21 also no products made by the offending country/s will be purchased. From 1/1/22 to 30/6/22 also no communication will be made with the offending country/s. From 1/7/22 to 31/1/22 also no goods will be sold or shipped to the offending country/s.
    (*The exception to the above sanctions is being where life is at risk).

    Management

    The program will be managed by an International Certifier (IC) comprising no more than 21 people on the Management group consisting of at least 7 (non-politician) Scientists, and 7 (non-politician) lay people who are renowned for their environmental activism. The IC will be required to write monthly reports on their activities and refer these reports to all World States in a timely manner.

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