UN – humanity has changed 40 percent of the Earth’s land mass, putting the planet in a crisis situation

(ORDO NEWS) — Agriculture is the biggest land destroyer, the authors say. Transforming farming practices could restore billions of hectares by 2050 for less than what is spent on subsidies to developed countries.

A new UN report warns that up to 40% of the Earth’s land is degrading, directly affecting half of humanity and threatening about half of the world’s $44 trillion GDP.

The flagship report of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) “Global Land Outlook 2” (GLO2) predicts that if business as usual continues until 2050, there will be additional degradation of an area almost the size of South America.

The report also notes that countries’ current commitment to restore 1 billion degraded hectares by 2030 will require $1.6 trillion over that decade, a fraction of today’s annual $700 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels and agriculture.

With soaring food prices amid rapid climate change and other planetary changes, the report says a “crisis framework” is needed to conserve, restore and sustainably use land.

The report warns that the current mismanagement and use of land resources – soil, water and biodiversity – threatens the health and continued survival of many species on Earth, including humans.

The report says that if current trends in land degradation continue, food supplies will be disrupted, forced migration will increase, rapid loss of biodiversity and extinction of species will increase, accompanied by an increased risk of zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, deteriorating human health and conflicts due to land resources.

At the same time, he pointed out to decision makers hundreds of practical ways to restore land and ecosystems at the local, national and regional levels.

Evidence-based UNCCD GLO2 flagship report, which was developed over five years with 21 partner organizations and contained more than 1,000 citations, was the most comprehensive compilation of information on the topic ever compiled.

It provides an overview of the unprecedented situation and predicts the planetary consequences of three scenarios up to 2050: business as usual, restoration of 50 million sq. km of land and restoration measures, complemented by the conservation of natural areas important for specific ecosystem functions.

The report also assesses the potential contribution of land restoration investments to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction, human health and other key sustainable development goals.

The report warns: “At no other point in modern history has humanity faced so many familiar and unfamiliar risks and dangers interacting in a hyper-connected and rapidly changing world. We cannot afford to underestimate the scale and impact of these existential threats.”

“Conservation, restoration and sustainable use of our land resources is a global imperative that requires action on a crisis basis … Business as usual is not a viable path for our continued survival and prosperity,” the report says.

The report was released ahead of the 15th session of the UNCCD Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 to 20 May.

Ibrahim Tiav, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said: “Modern agriculture has changed the face of the planet more than any other human activity. We urgently need to rethink our global food systems, which are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use and are the biggest cause of loss of terrestrial biodiversity”.

“Investing in large-scale land restoration is a powerful, cost-effective tool to combat desertification, soil erosion and the loss of agricultural production. As a limited resource and our most valuable natural asset, we cannot afford to continue to take land for granted,” he added.

Scenarios for the future

The report forecasts outcomes by 2050 and associated risks under three scenarios:

In this situation, current trends in land and natural resource degradation will continue, while the demand for food, feed, fiber and bioenergy will continue to grow.

Land management practices and climate change will continue to cause widespread soil erosion, reduced fertility and increased crop yields, and further loss of natural areas due to agricultural expansion.

By 2050, this will lead to continued land degradation on an area of ​​16 million square kilometers. km (almost on the area of ​​South America).

There will also be a sustained, long-term decline in vegetation productivity of 12-14% of agricultural, grazing and rangeland and natural areas, with sub-Saharan Africa hardest hit.

At the same time, between 2015 and 2050, an additional 69 gigatonnes of carbon will be emitted as a result of land use change and soil degradation, which is 17% of current annual greenhouse gas emissions: soil organic carbon (32 gigatonnes), vegetation (27 gigatonnes), degradation / conversion of peatlands (10 Gt).

n Restoration: This situation involves the restoration of about 5 billion hectares (50 million square kilometers or 35 percent of the global land area) using measures such as agroforestry, rangeland management and the promotion of natural restoration. Current international obligations amount to 10 million square meters. km.

By 2050, this will increase crop yields by 5 to 10 percent above baseline in most developing countries.

Soil conditions will also improve, leading to higher crop yields, with the largest gains coming from the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, limiting food price increases.

Soil water holding capacity will increase by 4% on rainfed arable land; carbon stocks will increase by 17 gigatons between 2015 and 2050 due to increased soil carbon and reduced emissions.

Although biodiversity is likely to continue to decline, it will not happen so quickly: biodiversity loss will be prevented by 11 percent.

n Restoration and Protection: This scenario includes restoration measures complemented by measures to protect areas important to biodiversity, manage water resources, conserve soil and carbon stocks, and ensure critical ecosystem functions.

By 2050, these measures will create an additional 4 million sq. m. km of natural areas (the area of ​​India and Pakistan); the largest increase is expected in South and Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Protective measures will prevent land degradation through logging, burning, drainage or conversion.

At the same time, about a third of the biodiversity loss projected in the base case will be avoided and an additional 83 gigatonnes of carbon will be saved compared to the base case.

Avoiding emissions and increasing carbon storage would be equivalent to more than seven years of total current global emissions, the report says.

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