Louis Verchot, scientist from the Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes Research Area at CIAT, provides us his views on the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, published yesterday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ), of which he was one of the main authors.
“Many findings are important for us and for policy makers around the world. The report shows that land is both a source and a sink of greenhouse gases. Currently, land absorbs 22% of our greenhouse gas emissions and such absorption has increased as our emissions have increased. Therefore, we are receiving a free subsidy from nature as the land is reducing the negative climate impacts of our own actions. The report also shows that this subsidy will not go on indefinitely, and the continuous land and soil degradation are major threats to the biosphere and the continued absorption of carbon dioxide.” Louis Verchot

Scientist from the Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes Research Area at CIAT

According to the IPCC report, Earth is already under mounting pressure from humans, which will be exacerbated by climate change. Likewise, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, including the land and food sectors, is the only way to keep global warming far below 2°C.

The report also shows that agriculture is responsible for 44% of global methane emissions and 81% of global nitrous oxide emissions. These two gases are potent greenhouse gases and agricultural sources are growing.  Additionally, nitrous oxide is the most important factor in depletion of stratospheric ozone and its growth is strongly linked to fertilizer application and intensification of livestock production.

“The report notes that climate change is a threat to food supply all over the world. Plants grow faster as a result of fertilization with CO2, but the protein and micronutrient content decreases. This is particularly important for zinc and iron, two issues CIAT is already addressing through its research in biofortification,” highlights Verchot.

He added, “A quarter of the land area is degraded.” The report states that 500 million people live in landscapes undergoing desertification, and that soil is being lost at a rate 10-100 times faster than the rate at which it is being formed. Climate change is making land degradation worse. Investing in the restoration of degraded lands helps mitigate climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and adapt to climate change by enhancing the resilience of ecosystems and agricultural systems.”

IPCC – the international body responsible for assessing the state of scientific knowledge on climate change, its impacts and its potential future risks, as well as the possible response options –  analyzed the Summary for Policy Makers of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, approved by governments from across the world on Wednesday in Geneva (Switzerland).

This report will be a critical scientific contribution to the next negotiations on climate and the environment, such as the Fourteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, to be held in New Delhi (India) in September, and the Twenty-fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, which will take place in Chile, in December.

According to researcher Louis Verchot, the next step for the IPCC is completing the Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere under a changing climate, which will be published in September.

It is also worth recalling that nearly 125 authors and members of IPCC from 45 countries met at CIAT last February to work on the development of a final preliminary version of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land.

Go here to find out more information about the final IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land.

This is how international media have gathered the views of Dr. Louis Verchot on the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land:

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