A new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change details how we are already feeling the negative effects of global warming on land, which include record-breaking heat waves, droughts, desertification, and declining crop yields.
The panel’s newly released Special Climate Change and Land Report indicates if global warming continues unchecked, worse impacts are yet to come.
Louis Verchot, one of the report’s more than 50 scientist authors, said on a press call, “As we continue to pour more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Earth system has responded, and it has continued to absorb more and more.”
Verchot continued, “But the important finding of this report, I think, is this additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever.” He told Buzzfeed News, “The temperature over land is warming at twice the speed of the global average.”
According to international news publication Gingdu, climate pollution in the atmosphere in recent decades has led to uneven warming, with impacts stretching across the globe. The new report quantifies what’s happening on the rapidly warming land.
To date, the average surface air temperature over land has increased by about 1.5 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels. However, it’s not a measure of total warming, the average excludes the warming of air temperatures over the oceans, which cover most of the planet.
In addition, a population boom amongst humans has expanded consumption of food, wood, energy, and more. To do this, people have used more and more land and freshwater resources resulting in what scientists say is a spike in emissions.
The summary report for policymakers states, “Climate change, including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes, has adversely impacted food security and terrestrial ecosystems as well as contributed to desertification and land degradation in many regions.”
The direct impact on crops are mixed, with lower-latitude regions experiencing some declines in maize and wheat crops while higher-latitude regions have seen some crop yield increases.
To combat the ongoing issue, Pamela McElwee, another study author, stated on a press call, “One of the important findings of our work is that there are a lot of actions that we can take now. We do not have to wait for some sort of new technological innovation. Some examples include reducing deforestation and cutting down on food waste.”