To halt warming and ensure food supplies, land-use practices must change

By | August 8, 2019

E&E News reports:

What’s good for the planet’s climate is also good for its food systems.

Halting global warming and feeding the world’s rapidly growing population both require major overhauls to the way that humans manage the land they live on, according to a much-anticipated report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report, released this morning, tackles the broad connections between climate change and land. With contributions from more than 100 scientists who reviewed thousands of research papers, it dives deeply into the ways that climate change affects the planet’s landscapes and how managing those landscapes better can insulate Earth and humans from the risks of rising temperatures.

Climate change and human land-use practices are already contributing to the degradation of landscapes around the world, the authors say. Large swaths of South and East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, for instance, have already begun to dry out and transform into deserts. These kinds of changes not only alter natural ecosystems but can pose a major threat to agriculture. That in turn affects the amount of food for humans.

At the same time, the report notes that natural landscapes, including forests and wetlands around the world, are important carbon storage sites. And for the time being, the land still seems to be soaking up more carbon dioxide than it releases.

But deforestation, agriculture, the conversion and development of natural landscapes, and other land-use changes release billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. Cutting down on those emissions, while preserving the world’s existing carbon sinks, should be a major priority in the fight against climate change, the report says.

These conclusions reflect the findings of other recent studies, which say that “natural” climate solutions—namely, protecting and restoring natural carbon-storing landscapes—can have a profound effect on global climate mitigation. [Continue reading…]

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