2010-12-17 09:24:09Desertification is greatest threat to planet
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
68.188.192.170

New piece in the Guardian today:

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Desertification and land degradation is "the greatest environmental challenge of our time" and "a threat to global wellbeing", according to the UN's top drylands official, Luc Gnacadja, who says people must be paid via global carbon markets for preserving the soil. The executive secretary of UN's Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), will today launch the UN decade for the fight against desertification in London.

"The top 20cm of soil is all that stands between us and extinction," he told the Guardian. Conflicts and food price crises all stem from the degradation of land, he added.

Desertification and land degradation is "the greatest environmental challenge of our time" and "a threat to global wellbeing", according to the UN's top drylands official, who says people must be paid via global carbon markets for preserving the soil.

Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of UN's Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), will today [Monday] launch the UN decade for the fight against desertification in London. "The top 20cm of soil is all that stands between us and extinction," he told the Guardian.

Land conflicts in Somalia, dust storms in Asia and the food price crises of recent years all stem from the degradation of land, he said, due to overuse by humans and the impacts of global warming. Since the early 1980s, a quarter of the planet's land has been despoiled and 1% a year continues to be lost.

The better known issues of climate change and loss of biodiversity are both rooted in the global loss of fertile soil, said Gnacadja, as the soil harbours a huge stock of carbon and the health of creatures living in the soil underpins global food production and forest growth. The reason desertification has not been a priority is because 90% of the 2.1 billion people who live in drylands live in developing countries, he said.

"Even in their own countries, they are the poorest among the poor and live in remote areas," said Gnacadja. "The world is driven by city dwellers: political leaders are setting agendas to satisfy people who live in the cities, we therefore tend to perceive soil as just dust, or mud, or a dumping place. But if we don't preserve that first 20cm of soil, where will we get our food and water from?" Half the world's livestock are raised on drylands and a third of crops, especially wheat.

The impacts of climate change – rising temperatures and more erratic rainfall – are here already from Latin America to the Sahel, said Gnacadja. Adding to the pressure on land is rising global population, which is expected to pass the 7 billion mark next year and reach 9 billion by 2050. As well as the consequences for food and water, violent conflicts and migration will also increase, he said, affecting those living outside drylands.

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Combine this with the bad news from Dai et al 2010 and, well, let's just say it's grim.

 

If no one else is doing a blog post on this or Dai et al 2010, I will.

 

I can probably get BPL to chip in; he's got a submitted paper on this in response to Dai.

 

2010-12-17 22:20:01
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.251.237

Desertification may be the greatest immediate threat to global civilization, but it must surely be in a hell of a race with ocean acidification/warming/stratification/hypoxia.

I long ago accepted we are only striving to limit damage and suffering, because the forces we have set in motion are largely irreversible for many thousands of years.

It's why those yabberfests like Cancun really hack me off, they just fail to understand the scale of change we have already committed to, and the bulk of the scientific community being reticent wusses only exacerbates the problem. In fact that's why I have so much admiration for James Hansen. Here's a guy who is certainly not the most gifted or natural orator, but who has basically said "frack this, I can't just stand idly by and just let this happen". We need more of them, much more.........and now.

(End rant) 

2010-12-18 11:19:06Rant away, we need more people doing that (speaking their mind; damn the consequences)
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
68.188.192.170

I'm going to write this up as a rebuttal (warming is good for plants, I think).  If I can get BPL interested, maybe he'll do a guest post on his own follow-up study to Dai et al 2010.