Washington, DC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released new and comprehensive evidence that our lands are under siege from climate change.

“This latest IPCC report reiterates the critical need to address climate change and the dangerous consequences we will face if we continue to abuse our resources,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.  

“Our lands and the habitat they provide for wildlife are facing grave threats from the droughts, floods, sea-level rise and other impacts from climate change. At the same time, current agricultural and forest management practices are contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions which threaten the future of biodiversity across the globe.

“Better forest and farmland management could help solve these dire problems, but frustratingly, this administration seems determined not to let that happen. Instead of pressing ahead with the exploitation of our lands and making things worse, the administration needs to heed the suggestions in this report to manage our lands to achieve emissions reductions and protect habitat. It’s not too late to address these threats, but unless we act now it will soon be too late for many species.”

The report, titled “Climate Change and Land, an IPCC Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems,” is a compilation of the best available science on the interactions between land, climate and human land-use activities around the world.

Humans – through our exploitation of land for food, fiber, fuel and other products — are impacting 72 percent of the earth’s ice-free lands, the report finds. Moreover, humans are causing degradation, through soil loss, desertification, and pollution, of roughly a quarter of that land surface. The warming climate threatens to accelerate this degradation by increasing flooding, drought, erosion, crop losses and permafrost melt.

This report comes after the release of the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) findings earlier this year, which concluded that up to 1 million species could be at risk of extinction within decades from land development, exploitation, climate change and other factors.

 

Background: 
Climate change

  • Climate change is among the greatest threats to biodiversity on our planet. It is already having devastating effects on both human and natural communities. Defenders is working with wildlife and natural resource managers and agencies to address the impacts of climate change by developing and implementing adaptive conservation plans.
  • Defenders created an interactive guide that allows you to learn about more than 50 species currently impacted by climate change across the country.

IPCC Climate Change and Land Report 

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a special report offering a comprehensive view of climate change from the lands sector.
  • The report finds that human activities and climate change are already severely impacting lands, with impacts to both biodiversity and human communities. 
  • Land management activities, including agricultural practices and deforestation, are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The report also discusses solutions and reiterates the need for immediate action. One issue touched on in the report briefing is the role of avoided deforestation, afforestation and reforestation in mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts. This is an area where changes to current policies and practices could make a big difference. Traditionally, reforestation has emphasized the planting of commercial species for eventual timber harvest, to the detriment of climate resiliency and biodiversity. While tree planting holds great promise as a solution to the climate crisis, reforestation policy should be modernized to promote the twin goals of carbon sequestration and biodiversity restoration. Defenders of Wildlife intends to release a policy brief on this issue in the near future.   
  • Private lands also present a solution. Through the Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture delivers financial and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, and landowners to conserve natural resources on their land. By funding and supporting these and other programs, these lands can sequester carbon and provide wildlife habitat while benefiting local economies. 

IPBES Report

  • In May, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a summary report that concluded about 1 million species worldwide are at risk of extinction, many within just a few decades, and more than ever before in human history. This includes more than 40% of amphibian species, 33% of reef forming corals, and more than a third of all marine mammals, like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale and Florida manatee.
  • The IPBES report confirms at a global scale what Defenders is focused on in North America: biodiversity is declining at a rate significantly faster than baseline rates from the fossil record, with profound impacts to ecosystem services and benefits to human well-being.
  • The report points out that the most efficient way to solve this problem is to prioritize synergistic strategies that accomplish multiple goals, such as renewable energy that minimizes impacts to wildlife. A great example is Defenders’ Smart From the Start renewable energy program, which reduces harmful emissions by rapidly developing clean renewable energy without harming sensitive wildlife and habitat.
     

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

Jake Bleich headshot
Jake Bleich
Communications Associate
jbleich@defenders.org
(202) 772-3208

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