No one is going to be happy giving up land to fight climate change (2019). There is no shortage of scary facts in the major new report on climate change and land, a summary of which was released today by a United Nations–led scientific panel. Chief among them: For everyone who lives on land, the planet’s dangerously warmed future is already here. Earth’s land has already warmed more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial revolution, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s the same amount of warming that climate activists are hoping to prevent on a global scale.
This spike makes sense, scientifically: Land warms twice as fast as the planet overall. Earth as a whole has warmed by only 0.87 degrees Celsius (1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) during the same period. But this increase makes the stakes of climate change clear: When scientists discuss preventing “1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming,” they are really talking about forestalling 3 degrees Celsius—or 5.1 degrees Fahrenheit—of higher land temperatures.
And land temperatures are what humanity usually cares about. Land, really, is what humanity cares about. That’s the point.
2. If the report has an overarching theme, it’s that land is extremely scarce, we need it for everything, and we are already using most of it. More than 70 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is already shaped by human activity, the report says. As trees are felled and farms take their place, this human-managed land emits about a quarter of global greenhouse-gas pollution every year, including 13 percent of carbon dioxide and 44 percent of the super-warming but short-lived pollutant methane.
But unlike other sources of pollution—such as the burning of fossil fuels, which must be quickly reduced globally—land can’t just be shut down. It must be made into a tool in the climate fight. The report’s more than 100 authors, hailing from 51 countries, say that this will require immediate action from farmers, bankers, conservationists, and policy makers worldwide. And to really succeed, it will require hundreds of millions of affluent people in the Northern Hemisphere to change their diet, eating many more plants and much less meat—and especially much less red meat—than they do now.
These changes must happen fast, because land problems have a pesky way of metastasizing. Louis Verchot, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and an author of the new report, described the cascading consequences of warmer air temperatures at a press conference this week.
Who will save the planet? (2019)
Baby steps are the way to go (2019)
The climate crisis, migration, and refugees (2019) . This global challenge has and will continue to create a multitude of critical issues that the international community must confront, including:
- Large-scale human migration due to resource scarcity, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and other factors, particularly in the developing countries in the earth’s low latitudinal band
- Intensifying intra- and inter-state competition for food, water, and other resources, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa
- Increased frequency and severity of disease outbreaks
- Increased U.S. border stress due to the severe effects of climate change in parts of Central America
All of these challenges are serious, but the scope and scale of human migration due to climate change will test the limits of national and global governance as well as international cooperation.
Con — No Warming
Climate change reconsidered (2019)
Con — Impact Answers
Con — Impact Turn — Agriculture