Climate change, food security, and land degradation are amongst the world's biggest problems as a part of the United Nation's sustainable development goals for 2030. Scientists offer some solutions that can tackle all three problems simultaneously.

With climate change comes the loss of biodiversity which has affected agricultural farms for food supplies and land degradation. A common solution had been to plant trees in replacement of urban developments and other damages to the land.

However, planting even one trillion trees around the globe is not a solution to stop climate change; it's much more complex. Scott Denning, an atmospheric scientist from Colorado State University explains why planting more trees are not realistic.

"No doubt, if you replaced every area of non-forest with forest, you could sequester a lot of carbon,' Denning said. However, not much land is left for planting trees since 'most of the land that might be suitable is in use for farms and cities. Most of the places that can support forests, like the Amazon, Congo, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia, already have forests."

Avoiding Significant Trade-Offs

While some green groups rally against companies in the fossil fuel industry and others forefront beach clean-ups and planting trees, experts give insight on the bigger picture. Experts share that solutions to global problems will take multigenerational commitment and multiple problem-solving.

"We argue that if we want to have an impact on multiple problems, we need to be smart about what options get us multiple benefits and which options come with potential trade-offs," said Professor Pamela McElwee from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Her team discovered that most of the better-known solutions to these problems come with significant trade-offs, which may not be beneficial for the environment in the long run.

Although it's easy and ideal to accept the possibility of planting as many trees as possible to slow down climate change, McElwee shares that it competes with land needed to grow food. Also, if exotic trees were planted, native biodiversity could diminish.

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Researchers Offer Solutions That Tackle Climate Change, Land Degradation and Food Security Simultaneously
(Photo : Screenshot From pexels official website )

Simultaneous Solutions

Better and promising solutions, share the team, don't receive much global attention yet have few trade-offs. These include integrated water management, reducing food waste from farms, agroforestry, improving fire management, and investing in disaster risk management.

Sifting through 1,400 literature reviews, the team compared 40 to find interrelated problems between climate change, land degradation, and food security. They then categorized the shared benefits and trade-offs by ecosystem and the UN's 2030 goals. Their detailed study is a part of last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land.

One of the promising, simultaneous solutions is bioenergy or using plants as a source of energy such as ethanol or wood fuel. Bioenergy can also be used to capture and store carbon.

Actions such as large-scale afforestation can help with land degradation problems while helping farmers with risks in agriculture like commercial crop insurance. A better understanding of these interventions with fewer trade-offs will help make effective decisions to battle the three big problems, as well as the other sustainable development goals.

"Policy officials can't always undertake the kind of work we did, so we hope our findings provide a useful shorthand for decision-makers," McElwee shared.

"We hope it helps them make the choices needed to improve future policy, such as strengthened pledges to tackle climate mitigation under the 2015 Paris Agreement. There are a lot of potential steps for reducing carbon emissions that aren't as well-known but should be on the table."

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