Positive Environment News

Climate More Than Land Misuse Spreading Deserts - UN

Date: 13-Sep-07
Country: SPAIN

Yvo de Boer said that, although growing populations in dry
areas were putting serious stress on the environment through
over-grazing, water demand, deforestation and other activities,
climate change was the greater threat.

"Climate change will change weather patterns even more ...
especially in Africa, rainfall is decreasing and climate change
is exacerbating desertification. Climate change is probably the
biggest factor," said de Boer, who was speaking on the sidelines
of a UN desertification conference in Madrid.

Drylands, including many in crop producing areas, cover 41
percent of the world's land surface, of which 10-20 percent are
already degraded.

De Boer added that desertification would, in turn, speed up
climate change.

"You'll see a sort of feedback mechanism ... quite a lot of
carbon is captured in soil, so with more desertification
(exposing the soil), you also get more CO2 emissions. They are
two halves of the same coin."

Major deserts like the Sahara, Gobi and Kalahari are all
expanding and desertification has begun to threaten countries
like Spain and Kazakhstan, where swathes of cropland have had to
be abandoned in the last three decades.

The UN estimates that more than 250 million people are
directly affected by desertification and approximately one
billion in over 100 countries are at risk.

De Boer said he hoped the two-week conference would agree a
10-year strategy to fight desertification that better emphasised
the link with climate change. He added that member states needed
to pledged millions of additional dollars to fund the programme.

© Thomson Reuters 2007 All rights reserved

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