Land Use and Climate Change

Since land acts as both the source as well as a sink of carbon, Land use, and changes in land use forms an integral part of the conversation on climate change.

On one hand activities like agriculture and cattle rearing are a major source of methane and nitrous oxide. Both the gases are hundreds of times more dangerous than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. On the other hand soil, trees, plantations, and forests absorb carbon dioxide for the natural process of photosynthesis, thus reducing the overall carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.

As a result, largescale land-use changes, like deforestation or urbanisation, or even a change in cropping pattern have a direct impact on the overall emissions of greenhouse gases.

IPCC Report

For the first time Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a report which solely focuses on the land sector and its impact on climate change.

The report which talks about the contribution of land-related activities to global warming i.e. how the different uses of land, like agriculture, industry, forestry, cattle-rearing, and urbanisation, was affecting emissions of greenhouse gases makes the following observations:

  • If pre-production activities like cattle rearing and post-production activities like transport, energy and food processing are taken into account, then food production could contribute as much as 37 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions every year.
  • About 25 per cent of all food produced is either lost or wasted and even the decomposition of the waste releases emissions.

The report talks about the manner in which even existential activities like food production contributes to global warming and is also affected by it.

Combating Emissions

Land and ocean together absorb nearly 50 per cent of greenhouse gases emitted every year through natural processes in the carbon cycle. Hence the importance of land, or ocean, as a carbon sink, thus cannot be undermined in the global fight against climate change. Hence afforestation and reduction in deforestation are vital approaches in a global strategy to combat climate change.

India’s action plan on climate change gives due recognition to the above fact. It has a very important component of forests. Under INDCs, India has pledged to create an additional carbon sink of about 2.5 billion to 3 billion tonnes by the year 2032 by increasing its forest cover and planting more trees.


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