A recently released International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report reveals that an estimate of 23% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) come from Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU).

This is the paralyzing link between climate change and the use of land — it is simultaneously the sink that can eliminate GHG emissions and at the same time the source that can worsen it. This makes it difficult to strike a balance.

Let’s examine IPCC report’s main points and see exactly what is going down.

A drastic shift

Right now, climate change has already done considerable damage to our land. The global warming caused multiple changes in the world’s climate zones — the arid climate zones are expanding while the polar climate zones are contracting. This gravel affects the plant and animal species in these areas.

Global warming has also resulted in simultaneous, unfortunate increases in:

  • Rainfall intensity
  • Flooding
  • Drought frequency and severity
  • Dry spells
  • Sea level rises
  • Permafrost thaws

All of these increases lead to land degradation. In consequence, it has already affected food security, lowering crop yields, downright damaging crops, lowering animal growth rates, and exacerbating pest infestations.

A poison and a cure

Even before the Industrial period, the way we use our land greatly dictates the net release of carbon emissions. Activities such as desertification and deforestation amplify the release of carbon dioxide.

In the light of the recent events such as the Amazon forest fires, it seems like our path is leading towards certain destruction should major changes not be implemented in our land usage.

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It is becoming quite clear to us that the proper handling of our land resources will be the cure to combating both land degradation and climate change.

Some concrete measures proposed by IPCC in response to this dilemma include:

  • Forest protection and management
  • Controlled grazing
  • Promoting clean cooking
  • Proper fuel and fire management
  • Restoration of peatlands
  • Restoration of wetlands and coastal areas
  • Conservation of mangroves
  • Proper management of vegetation
  • Afforestation

Of course, another key aspect of solving both climate change and land degradation is a sound, long-term plan of land use. Policies that will mobilize the relevant actors and is inclusive for all stakeholders is of course very much desired.

According to the IPCC, better management of the land will offset the current man-made GHG emissions by as high as 20%. However, if we choose to stay passive in this matter, we will be instrumental in reducing the carbon sinks that are key for maintaining the global warming levels below 1.5°C or 2°C.

The link between climate change and land use makes it a disastrous predicament if left unattended. This link, however, makes it a convenient matter to act upon.

For the benefit of the world, suppressing the effects of climate change is a priority. For us to retain livelihoods, our homes, and our food security, combating land degradation is crucial. Proper land management is the spear that can pierce both matters at once.

The link between climate change and land use can be as mobilizing as it is paralyzing. The factor that will determine which will it be is our choice to act.

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