Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply

January 27, 2014 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Family Planning, Farming Practices, Daily Email Recap

The United Nations Environment Programme has just released a report titled Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply (5MB PDF) which provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific options for sustainable land management. Its worth downloading and scanning over. Achim Steiner, the UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, had this to say:

“[The report] points to an alarming reality. We are rapidly expanding global cropland at the expense of our savannahs, grasslands and forests, and the expected rise of demand for food, fibre and fuel will only increase the pressure on our land resource base. If current conditions continue, by 2050, we could have between 320 and 849 million hectares of natural land converted to cropland. To put things into perspective, the higher range of this estimate would cover an extension of land nearly the size of Brazil. There is no way such an amount can be compensated by increasing yields alone. While productivity levels have experienced an impressive increase over the past 50 years, yield gains have started to stagnate in some regions. At the same time, land degradation continues to expand, affecting today an estimated 23% of global soils and in its severe form leads to the abandonment and shift of 2 to 5 million hectares of cropland a year.”

The report notes that implementing “Family planning programmes to slow down population growth” as part of resource management policy options at the country level is “relevant” (pp. 16 of the report). It also notes near the end of its 5th chapter (pp. 70) that “An effective policy to control human fertility and thus growth of the world population may have a more pronounced impact on future food security than efforts to enhance crop yields.” The report also has a good section reviewing available evidence “showing that yield increases are slowing, whereas population is still growing and has more resource intensive dietary demands. Thus, more land is needed for food and feed. At the same time, agriculture is loosing fertile soil to expanding cities and infrastructures.”

Current World Population


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