Climate Change-Triggered Land Degradation and Planetary Health
Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University
The link between human health and the planet's natural systems is core to the concept of planetary health.
Until recently, science and policy perspectives on the public health of human populations have not necessarily considered natural ecosystems. These systems are now under significant threat in the Anthropocene epoch, and in some cases face accelerated species extinction, nature loss and degradation. Consequences include serious threats to human health and well-being. Climate change is a key driver of changing Earth systems and has been declared the greatest threat to global human health in the 21st century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world's natural and human systems will face severe challenges if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The impact of climate change has already been significant enough to endanger human health both directly and indirectly through the alteration of the Earth's interrelated systems.
Questions and methodology
The link between human health and the planet's natural systems is core to the concept of planetary health, which is now an emergent and powerful framework for redefining human clinical public health in relation to earth's natural systems. This paper focuses on land degradation and implications for planetary health.
Land degradation threatens the well-being of 3.2 billion people worldwide, with approximately 75% of Earth's land area degraded. Global land degradation is happening as a consequence of various natural and anthropogenic mechanisms, including flood, wind erosion, salinization, agriculture and human settlement, mining, deforestation, fire and anthropogenic climate change. The direct and indirect causes of land degradation and their human socio-ecological impacts are well documented. Land degradation is responsible for the loss of biodiversity and biological productivity, It causes imbalances in human socioecological integrity.
Land degradation and climate change each contribute to the other's acceleration. As climate change intensifies natural and anthropogenic land degradation, soil-based carbon released from degraded land to the atmosphere and reductions in carbon sequestration accelerate climate change. Land degradation has associated human health risks and is directly or indirectly impacting planetary health through multiple complex pathways. Limited consideration has been given in the literature to the cause-and-effect relationship of anthropogenic climate change and land degradation and the related planetary health effects. To understand these relationships, this paper asks two questions: (1) How is climate change causing land degradation? and (2) What potential planetary health consequences are associated with land degradation? This study answers with an identification and synthesis of the complex causal relationships of anthropogenic-climate-change-induced land degradation and its planetary health consequences. By integrating information available currently siloed in two dyads — land degradation and climate change, and land degradation and health — this paper provides a holistic yet focussed understanding of the potential threats to human health and well-being by climate- change-induced land degradation.
The authors developed (1) a dataset using a systematic literature review and (2) a driving force, pressure, state, exposure, effect framework using the collected data to identify how climate change has contributed to land degradation and the resulting human health impacts.
Using a predefined protocol, a systematic literature search was conducted in Web of Science and Google Scholar to find peer-reviewed as well as gray literature on the association of land degradation and planetary health in the context of anthropogenic climate change. Our findings clearly illustrate that anthropogenic climate change and land degradation have been more extensively researched separately than in terms of their links with planetary health. In the literature, climate-change-induced soil degradation and its impact on food security have been more popular topics compared to other planetary health impacts described in the results section.
The findings of this study can help policymakers to better understand the complex pathways of climate-change-induced land degradation and its planetary health impacts. The findings also reveal the critical need for a complex systems-based approach to understanding the causal relationships and importance of integrated actions to mitigate the planetary health impacts of climate-change-induced land degradation.
Land is a limited resource, subject to a myriad of climatic and anthropogenic pressures. Land degradation, climate change and planetary health interact with each other in a complex system. Therefore, this study has the potential to be a resource for achieving sustainable land management practices and sound planetary health by integrating key scientific knowledge and using a systems-based approach to target the dissemination of critical information on the climate change-land degradation-planetary health nexus beyond the world of academia.
This paper was written by Byomkesh Talukder, Nilanjana Ganguli, Richard Matthew, Gary W. vanLoon, Keith W. Hipel and James Orbinski.
The information provided on this website is not official U.S. government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government. All rights reserved.