A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Aug. 8, focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” According to the report, about a quarter of the Earth’s ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation, such as soil erosion and desertification. The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.”
The UN Refugee Agency sees “disaster-based displacement” as a growing threat, with growing numbers “being forcibly displaced from their homes by the effects of climate change and disasters.”
The IPCC report provides immediate potential responses to climate change, including forms of “carbon sequestration” such reforestation, afforestation, reduced deforestation, and “bioenergy.” But it also cautions that “[w]idespread use” of “bioenergy crops” could “increase risks for desertification, land degradation, food security and sustainable development.”
Debra Roberts, co-chair of the Working Group that produced the report, emphasized: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential if we want to keep the load two degrees Celsius.” Hans-Otto Pörtner, another Working Group co-chair, added that “the capacity to adapt is limited.”
From Jurist, Aug. 8. Used with permission.
Notes: The Paris Agreement, adopted at a December 2015 UN summit, permits a 2°C increase by 2030, but calls upon signatories to work towards a 1.°C increase. The safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is estimated at 350 parts per million; the planet recently surpassed 410 ppm, unprecedented in millions of years.
The UN Refugee Agency notes that the term “climate refugee,” often used in the media, does not exist in international law. It refers instead to “persons displaced in the context of disasters and climate change.”
Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP