SciDev.net reports that Forced migration from desertification and land degradation is an emerging environmental issue. Researchers are trying to identify to identify policies that increase the resilience of agro-ecosystems to climate change and decrease social vulnerability to desertification:
Desertification could create more than 135 million refugees, as droughts become more frequent and climate change makes water increasingly scarce in dryland regions, warn UN experts. …”Migration is a top-of-mind political issue in many countries. We are at the beginning of an unavoidably long process,” said Janos Bogardi, director of the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.
Drylands are home to one third of the world’s population, but they contain only eight per cent of global freshwater resources.
The Toronto Star writes:
The main current problem is the spread of deserts, both because Earth’s climate is warming and because impoverished people in dry areas are denuding the land for cooking fuel.
Poverty and climate change impacts feed on each other, Adeel said. For example, once land is cleared of vegetation, it reflects more of the sun’s heat into the atmosphere, warming the climate. That, in turn, increases the spread of areas too dry to support vegetation.”We have a poor sense of how fast it’s happening, but current estimates are that 200 million people now live in desertified areas,” Adeel said. Some 2 billion live in dry areas threatened with becoming desert.With every rise of 1 degree Celsius in average temperature, the boundary of such parched areas expands by another 200 kilometres, he said.
A Reuters article continues:
“Bad policies are as much to blame for aggravating desertification as climate change,” said Zafar Adeel, head of the U.N. University’s Canada-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health.
…”If millions of people with skills as farmers suddenly find themselves living in desertified areas … they have no time to adapt and have to flee,” Janos Bogardi, head of the U.N. University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn, told Reuters.
New policies could include helping people whose lands are at risk from erosion to plant more drought-resistant crops or turn to new activities such as eco-tourism, fish farming or production of solar energy.
Too often farmers tried to offset degradation of drylands by ever more costly irrigation rather than switching to less water-demanding activities.
“Crops transpire water. It’s a very water-intensive process,” Adeel said.