The Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a new edition of the World Atlas of Desertification in 2018, which provides the first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment of land degradation at a global level and highlights the urgency to adopt corrective measures.
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the JRC, said: “Over the past twenty years, since the publication of the last edition of the World Atlas of Desertification, pressures on land and soil have increased dramatically. To preserve our planet for future generations, we urgently need to change the way we treat these precious resources.”
The main findings show that population growth and changes in our consumption patterns put unprecedented pressure on the planet’s natural resources:
- Over 75% of the Earth’s land area is already degraded, and over 90% could become degraded by 2050.
- Globally, a total area half of the size of the European Union (4.18 million km²) is degraded annually, with Africa and Asia being the most affected.
- The economic cost of soil degradation for the EU is estimated to be in the order of tens of billions of euros annually.
- Land degradation and climate change are estimated to lead to a reduction of global crop yields by about 10% by 2050. Most of this will occur in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, where land degradation could halve crop production.
- As a consequence of accelerated deforestation it will become more difficult to mitigate the effects of climate change
- By 2050, up to 700 million people are estimated to have been displaced due to issues linked to scarce land resources. The figure could reach up to 10 billion by the end of this century.
[EU Science Hub]