Impact of Climate Change on the Efforts to Reach Land Degradation Neutrality

Niranjan Jose holds a BBA. LL.B (Hons.) degree from the National Law University Odisha, India. His research focuses on climate change, international political economy, and global security. He has presented papers at the Fifth International Conference on Social Sciences 2018 and the Seventh International Conference on Asian Studies 2019 on the topics “Saudi-Iranian Cold War: Analysis and Implications” and “Turkey: Regional aspirations in the changing Middle East.” His writings have appeared in The Hindu, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, ORF, and the Middle East Monitor, among others.

Human actions are making the Earth less capable of sustaining life. Air pollution, polluted rivers, shrinking forests, falling water tables, and climate change are all well-known effects of ecological imbalance. In addition to changing the quality of the air and water, these factors have made the land less usable. The land that provides us with water, food, and other important ecosystem services is getting worse and worse. In the rush to clear land for industrial agriculture and natural resource extraction, soil fertility, carbon storage, and natural vegetation are being lost at an alarming rate. Land degradation neutrality (LDN) is hard to achieve because more people want to use land resources, which could lead to major land use conflicts. Land degradation is a big problem around the world that affects 1.5 billion people’s food security, economic growth, way of life, and health.

Humans have caused global warming, which has already changed two things: the frequency, intensity, and/or amount of heavy rain, and the amount of heat stress. In some places, rising sea levels have made erosion along the coast worse. In the future, global warming will make land degradation worse by making floods and droughts happen more often and with more intensity, making cyclones stronger, and raising sea levels. The results will depend on how the land is managed. Land degradation is happening in places where it hasn’t been a problem before because of things like melting permafrost, coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels, and changes in storm paths. Coastal erosion will get worse all over the world as sea levels rise. In places where cyclones are common, the combination of rising sea levels and stronger cyclones will make it worse, which will have serious effects on people and their way of life. 

When lands become degraded, they are no longer able to provide important ecosystem services like clean water resources and healthy soil habitats. Land degradation is caused by a variety of complicated things, but all of them are directly or indirectly caused by human actions on the land. For example, cutting down trees can lead to soil erosion, which can cause sediment and nutrients to get into the water and soil. Other common causes of land degradation include overgrazing, which leads to the loss of vegetation and the compacting of the soil; cropland intensification and over-cropping, which cause soil erosion and salinisation; and urban expansion, which seals the soil and causes permanent soil loss.

Land degradation and climate change make already precarious ways of life even more dangerous. This makes people even more vulnerable to extreme weather events, which can lead to food insecurity, poverty, and, in some cases, migration, war, and the loss of cultural heritage. A good way to scale up restoration methods is to work with local communities and give them the power to run their lands. This removes the need to move or resettle people and gives ownership to communities that already have a connection to the land in question.

Even though land degradation is a major problem in many parts of the world, most people and policymakers don’t know much about it. In the agricultural sector, soil fertility is frequently viewed as a function of input quantity, whereas in the environmental sector, land degradation is primarily viewed as a change in land cover, with a focus on deforestation. Furthermore, land and soil are frequently regarded as private property rather than public goods, and political responsibility is shared by the ministries of agriculture and the environment. Soil is still a resource that isn’t taken care of as much as it should be. Soil degradation usually happens slowly and isn’t noticed until it’s too late. 

Even though some countries have made short-term improvements in air quality and brought more attention to environmental issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many places to shift their focus from protecting nature, to aggressively boosting economic productivity. For example, in China, to help the economy get back on track, the government temporarily stopped enforcing environmental rules for small businesses. While everyone was worried about the pandemic, there were calls from the government of Brazil to loosen rules about the environment. To reduce this risk and make the world a healthier place for people and the planet, we need governments, businesses, and people to work together. Land degradation needs to be stopped and turned around mainly through self-regulatory practices for the sustainable use of resources and energy.

Image credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thar_Desert,_India_ESA379021.jpg

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