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    Climate Change and Land

    The article is based on the recent IPCC report “Climate change and Land” published on 8th August and an editorial “Climate on the Farm” published in The Indian Express on 10th August regarding the same.

    Table of Contents

     

    What is Climate Change

    The scientific community and government across the world are in agreement – the climate is changing.

    But what is climate change ? what is causing it ? and how will it affect us ?

    The climate can be describe as the average weather over a period of time. Climatechange means a significant change in the measures ofclimate, such as temperature, rainfall, or wind, lasting for an extended period – decades or longer.

    The Earth’s climate has changed many times during the planet’s history, with events ranging from ice ages to long periods of warmth. What is different about this period of the earth’s history is that human activities are significantly contributing to natural climate change through our emissions of greenhouse gases. This interference is resulting in increased air and ocean temperatures, drought, melting ice and snow, rising sea levels, increased rainfall, flooding and other influences.

    Context

    • Climate Change and Land : Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently, on 8th August, released Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) which finds that we must dramatically change the way we use land to limit global warming to safe levelsby2030.
    • It is alarmed about the degrading land resources globally and its impact on furthering negative effects of climate change. It concluded that better management of the world’s farms and forests is necessary to tackle climate change.
    • The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warns that clean energy, clean transport and reduction emissions alone will not cut global emissions enough to avoid dangerous warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius.
    • It points out that the global food system is responsible for21 to37 per cent of the world’s GHG emissions.

    Climate Change

    Land Use and Climate change

    • About a quarter of theEarth’s ice free land area is subjected to “human-induced degradation” according to the IPCC report.
      • Rapid agricultural expansion has led to destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands and other ecosystems thus boosting global warming.
      • Soil erosion from agricultural fields, the report estimates, is ten to hundread times higher than the soil formation rate.
    • Land degradation is both cause and consequence of climate change. When land is degraded, it becomes lessproductives, restricting whatcan be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. This sharpen climatechange, while climatechange in turn exacerbates land degradation.
    • Land serves as a sink for carbon, because healthy ecosystems and soils can absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Between 2007-2016, these sinks removed 28% of total human carbon dioxide emissions from the air — an important barrier to even more severe climate change.
    • However, degraded land does not have the capacity to absorb carbon; it can actually release carbon. And it’s possible that climate change and human activities could damage land to the point where it becomes a net source of carbon emissions.

    Climate Change

    • Agricultures, forestry and othert ypes of land use account for23% of human greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry.
    • Land must remain productive to maintain food security as the population increases as well as the negative impacts of climatechange on vegetation increase.
    • Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines – especially in the tropics – increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions.

    Mitigation Strategies

    • The report shows that sustainable land management can contribute to tackling climatechange, but is not the only solution. Reducing greenhouse gases emissions from all sectors is essential if global warming is to be kept to well below 2ºC, if not 1.5ºC.
    • Coordinated action to address climatechange can simultaneously improve land, food security and nutrition, and help to end hunger.
    • The report highlight that climate change is affecting all four pillars of food security:
      • availability (yield and production),
      • access (prices and ability to obtain food),
      • utilization (nutrition and cooking), and
      • stability (disruptions to availability).
    • More sustainable land use, reducing over-consumptions & waste of foods, eliminating the clearing and burning of forests, preventing over-harvesting of fuelwood, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will help to address land related climate change issues.

    Significance of the Report

    • The report is expecte to be a key scientific input into forthcoming climate negotiation, such as the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Delhi in September and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Santiago, Chile, in December.
    • The report could impetus moves to pressure developing countries like India to ramp up their global warming mitigation targets.
    • Countries, including India, could do well to pay heed to the IPCC report’s recommendations on curbing land degradation and soil erosion by improving knowledge systems.

    Way Forward

    • The IPCC report presents another alarming picture regarding climatechange effects on agriculture and food systems by emphasising its deleterious effects on land use. It also presents some solutions towards sustainable development strategies to effectively mitigate climate change.
    • There needs an enhanced commitment from nations more than their pledged INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) under Paris Climate Deal. However, it must not be used to pressurize developing countries to ramp up their global warming mitigation targets.
    • India, which seems well on course to meeting its Paris Climate Pact targets, should be careful about taking up commitments that hobble its agriculture sector.

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