The IPCC Finally Is Starting To Accept That Human Land Management Is A First-Order Climate Forcing

[the above figure is from “Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000.” By Erle C. Ellis, Kees Klein Goldewijk, Stefan Siebert, Deborah Lightman, Navin Ramankutty. Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol. 19 No. 5, September 2010. and reported in Wire Science)]

In a series of articles over the last several decades, I have reported on the major first-order role of land use change as a regional and global climate forcing. A sample of the papers we have authored on this subject include:

Pielke, R.A. and R. Avissar, 1990: Influence of landscape structure on  local and regional climate. Landscape Ecology, 4, 133-155.

Chase, T.N., R.A. Pielke, T.G.F. Kittel, R. Nemani, and S.W. Running,  1996: The sensitivity of a general circulation model to global changes  in leaf area index. J. Geophys. Res., 101, 7393-7408

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2001: Influence of the spatial distribution of vegetation  and soils on the prediction of cumulus convective rainfall. Rev. Geophys.,  39, 151-177.

Pielke Sr., R.A., G. Marland, R.A. Betts, T.N. Chase, J.L. Eastman, J.O.  Niles, D. Niyogi, and S. Running, 2002: The influence of land-use change  and landscape dynamics on the climate system- relevance to climate change  policy beyond the radiative effect of greenhouse gases. Phil. Trans. A.  Special Theme Issue, 360, 1705-1719.


Pielke Sr., R.A., 2005: Land use and  climate change. Science, 310, 1625-1626.

There is an article in the March 15 2012 issue of Nature that finally elevates land use change to its proper level as a first order climate forcing. While the article still does not recognize that land conversion, particularly in the low latitudes but also in the boreal forest regions continues and, therefore, will add further to how humans are altering the climate, it is an important step for the IPCC to finally make. In 1995 I resigned from the IPCC after efforts to get them to mention this issue were rebuffed (as they were when I was invited to review the 1992 Supplement to the IPCC report). I reported on this resignation in my post

My 1995 Resignation Letter From The IPCC

where I specifically mentioned land use change as one of the issues that their 1995 report was ignoring.

It has taken +20 years for the IPCC community to accept the reality of this climate forcing.

The article is

Forecasters look back in time by Jeff Tollefson 2012: Nature Volume 483 Number 7389 pp245-368

The article even has a headline that reads

“It turns out that land-use changes were as large a player as fossil-fuel emissions were.”

The relevant text in the article reads

Ron Stouffer, a climate researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, says that his team’s model has already delivered surprises on the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. “It turns out that land-use changes, right up to about 1950 or even 1970, were as large a player as fossil-fuel emissions were,” he says. “And even today they are not trivial.”

This is a good start to accepting that the human role within the climate system is not dominated by CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases!

source of image

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