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The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in 1994 defined desertification as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities”. Desertification is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, and the combination of climate change and human activity is making it worse.
As global temperatures rise and human populations increase, more and more land is at risk for degradation. In addition to global warming, factors influencing desertification include urbanization, unsustainable freshwater use, mining, ranching, farming and deforestation. As already water-scarce areas become even dryer, the soil in these areas is less able to support crops, livestock, and wildlife.
According to the European Commission’s World Atlas of Desertification, more than 75% of the Earth’s land is already degraded, and more than 90% may become degraded by 2050. Although desertification affects poorer countries disproportionately, the crisis is global, with more than 100 countries affected.
Land degradation and desertification were addressed at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. The resulting Declaration on Forests and Land Use confirmed an international commitment to halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030, while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.
The declaration can be read here: https://ukcop26.org/glasgow-leaders-declaration-on-forests-and-land-use/
Desertification and the Role of Climate Change by Robert McSweeney; June 8, 2019; Carbon Brief
Desertification, Explained by Christina Nunez; May 31, 2019; National Geographic
United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021
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