Climate Change and Land Use

Climate change and the associated impacts are threatening how we live now and the ability of future generations to live sustainably. This month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released their Special Report ‘Climate Change and Land’, announcing that our current usage of land both contributes to and is at risk from, climate change – endangering food security, livelihoods and the provisioning of ecosystem services.

In the UK, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advises the UK Government on tackling and preparing for the climate challenges we face. As a company, we contributed significantly to the recent CCC’s report to Parliament – ‘Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change’. This report advised on improvements to our use of land to meet climate goals, on protecting the land as a natural asset and on creating a coherent policy for the UK.

Land Use – a climate contributor or an opportunity for change?

Our research demonstrated that anticipatory measures are the most effective methods of adapting to climate change. Theoretical models, case studies and collaboration with local experts were used to investigate the conditions facing the UK and how we could plan for more sustainable landscapes.

Read more about our work on the project, which has been submitted for the prestigious Landscape Institute Awards 2019, in the case study below.

Land use management is both a contributor to the climate crisis and an opportunity for change. We rely on the land to provide essential goods and services such as food, freshwater and nutrient cycling, yet our actions are threatening the sustainable supply of these resources.

Land-use change associated with agriculture has dramatically increased yields: the total production of cereal crops has increased by 240% since 1961, enabling food supplies to keep up with our growing population. However, under the conditions of climate change, continued yield increases are unachievable due to desertification and land degradation.

Simultaneously, agriculture, forestry and other types of land use are major contributors to the climate crisis and account for 23% of human greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Contemporary land management is also affecting other planetary boundaries – agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater use and the application of synthetic fertilisers has led to eutrophication, resulting in oceanic dead zones.

Helping future generations

To create a resilient landscape for future generations, we need to address the contradiction between our actions and needs and consider how we can mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. The IPCC has suggested high level, near-term actions to address our land use challenges:

  • Building capacity
  • Accelerating knowledge transfer
  • Encouraging technology development and use
  • Enabling financial mechanisms
  • Implementing a warning system
  • Undertaking risk management
  • Meeting gaps in implementation.

Alongside these targets, region-specific studies such as those that we undertook for the CCC, are required to address the social, economic and environmental needs of particular areas.

Want to know more?

Email Steve Maslen for more information. You can also find out more on our climate resilience web page.

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