Desertification: A Regional Issue, But Also A Global One

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Source: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Didem Eker

Climate has been changing and world is getting warmer day by day. Scientific reports are warning us that climate is changing at an alarming rate. If countries don’t act responsibly on the climate change and desertification subject, the world will be getting warmer by up to 4, 5 C degree within this century.  It is very important to reverse the negative effects of climate change and start recovering.

The year 2015 could be a milestone to pause climate change for a better environment. Scientific reports emphasize what should be done to recover from the losses incurred since the 1960’s, and important decade as it is when industrial production started to rise for powerful countries. On paper, recovering from climate change is simple on the paper as this: no more fossil fuels, and using renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar power.

Is it possible to continue without fossil fuels? Most of the comments on this issue are that renewable energy implementations are expensive, while fossil fuel is more affordable. These ideas are the reason climate change is continuing.

Another visible result of climate change is desertification. Land degradation, erosion, water scarcity and unhealthiness, arid land are considered as desertification. Each continent around the world has been facing different levels of desertification, drought, erosion and land degradation due to climate change and the misuse of natural resources. Scientific reports specify that between 1981 and 2003, 24% of all lands around the world have suffered from “land degradation”.

In the long term, but it may be not so long, poverty is on the way. If there is no healthy soil left, agricultural production decreases dramatically, which paves the way for a period of shortage on food, which is where poverty starts. It is well-known that Africa is the most critical region due to water scarcity and lack of agricultural production.  Also, The Middle East has been struggling with war and conflict for so long that lands are losing their fertility because of the destroying results of war. Citizens in the region have no choice other than migration. World politics need to pay attention to irreversible damages that are being caused to people and nature. We are all looking at the effects of climate change and trying to prevent it, but we do not have a clear picture of how we are affecting biodiversity and nature.

2015 can be an important year to implement a new roadmap for a better environment. This year, Ankara hosted an important international conference about combatting desertification. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 12th Conference of the Parties (UNCCD COP12) was organized between October 12th and 23rd 2015, with 195 member States’ representatives, to negotiate about the spread of desertification around the world. After Italy, Senegal, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Cuba, Kenya, Spain, Argentina, South Korea and Namibia, this year Turkey was the meeting point due to the upcoming risks of desertification in the Central Anatolian region and neighboring areas. Two thirds of Turkey’s lands are considered arid or semi-arid areas. Additionally, in the last decade, desertification has spread to the Western area of the Central Anatolian region due to climate change. This area is still semi-arid, but it is exposed to desertification from the city of Konya to the Eastern Mediterranean region. A few centuries ago, Central Anatolia had wide expanses of natural forests, but now only a few natural forests exist and they are protected as a national park. Today, a 163.057 km2 area of the Central Anatolia region is in a critical state of desertification.

For a better future, is it possible to protect environment and recover from the damage? To answer this question, the COP12 meeting presented their decisions in the“Ankara Declaration”. According to this declaration, 2030 is the year for achievements.  The international community has decided to become more nature-friendly by 2030.  To prevent land degradation, climate change has to be stabilized with less carbon emissions and the use of renewable energy sources. Therefore, climate change is the stepping stone for the upcoming decisions. Additionally, protection of biodiversity is one other responsibility of international politics.  The parties of the COP12 conference ended up with reasonable steps to protect the environment. However, since the 1992 Rio De Janerio Earth Summit, carbon emission levels do not seem very promising for the future of environment.

After Ankara, the United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Paris from November 30 to December 11. This conference is very important for the 190 participant States because of the need to reach a decision on carbon emission levels for the coming years. In 2020, carbon emission agreements will be over for participant countries. At the 2015 Paris conference, the participant States met to decide on the next 10-year road map for combating desertification and climate change.

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