Climate Change And Land: What A UN Science Report Means For Utah’s Public Lands

Aug 15, 2019

Land is a critical resource in combatting climate change, a recent IPCC report says, which is important for Utah to note given the vastness of the state's public lands.
Credit Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations organization for evaluating and presenting the science related to climate change, released a comprehensive report last week for public officials around the world on the relationship between the land and climate.  The organization provides the world’s governments with scientific assessments to develop climate policies.

The IPCC approved and accepted the Special Report on Climate Change and Land at its 50th session in Geneva last week, which addresses the growing pressures on land and how improved management will be an essential component of reducing carbon emissions. 

Jim Petterson, Southwest and Colorado Director at the Trust for Public Land, explained why the report is especially relevant to Utah.

“The IPCC report really is a wake up call for us to really think about how we’re managing our public lands around the west and in Utah.  We’re losing a lot of these lands in their natural state every year, and we really need to focus on improving our conservation efforts,” he said.

 

Approximately 75% of Utah is public land, and as Petterson noted one of the increasingly urgent threats for its environment is water scarcity.  Though the report does not make any specific policy recommendations to governments, he believes better forest management practices would help support the state’s water needs.  Additionally, he mentioned other policies backed by the IPCC report to better manage lands and combat climate change, including more sustainable farming and increased urban canopies.

 

Petterson believes policymakers at all levels should take the message of the report seriously.

 

“The broader message here in this report is the importance of public lands and other natural lands being well-managed.  It’s clear that the scale of public lands in Utah in the west requires a lot of expensive and important management. So I think whomever manages those lands has a very heavy lift,” he said, “but the good news is it’s not too late.  If we follow the guidance of scientists such as those that produced this important report we can ensure we have a very livable planet.”

 

The Special Report on Climate Change and Land is one of three special reports to be prepared by the panel during its Sixth Assessment report cycle, which will be completed in 2021.  According to the IPCC, it will be an important scientific resource for upcoming international negotiations this year on environmental policy, including the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference.