Land-use key

It’s a first for the IPCC: in their special report*, the climate experts present all the data regarding the pressure humans put on land. And
issue a warning: by over-exhausting resources and exploiting soils and forests too intensively, humans are endangering their ability to cope
with global warming, along with their living conditions and livelihood.
Published in the dossier of December 2019

Land use worldwide …


… and 3 major stresses

Agricultural production

Between 1961 and 2017, total food production (cereal crops) rose by 240% due to the expansion of cultivated areas and an increase in yields. The main corollary over the same period is a leap of almost 800% in the use of inorganic nitrogen as fertilizer. Fiber production (cotton) increased by 162% (until 2013).

Food demand 

The increase in agricultural production is linked to changes in food consumption. Between 1961 and 2017, the world’s population increased by 150% and meat consumption more than doubled. This has been accompanied by an almost twofold increase in the prevalence of overweightness and obesity since 1975 (+80%).

Desertification and land degradation

Land-use change, land-use intensification and climate change have contributed to desertification and land degradation. Between 1961 and 2017, the share of the population living in areas experiencing desertification almost tripled (+200%). At the same time, the surface area occupied by wetlands shrunk to 30% of its 1970 level.


In its conclusion, the IPCC recommends adopting an array of policies targeting the food system, including food waste. These combined policies should bring about more sustainable land management (conservation agriculture, agroecology, agroforestry, permaculture, etc.), improve food security, limit land degradation and desertification, reduce poverty, improve public health, and help reduce greenhouse gases.

*“Climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems” (August 2019).