Much of the planet is “used up” and the world must make hard decisions about how land should be used.

This is the message of 50 top experts about why land matters when tackling a variety of existential problems.

For grand plans to combat climate change and natural loss, vast areas of land have been earmarked.

Land is essential for food production as well as alleviating poverty.

Scientists say that there isn’t enough land to do all these things simultaneously.

Dr Ariane De Bremond, University of Bern said that “We live in a used planet where all of the land that’s even thought unused or unexploited is providing really important benefits for people.”

“There’s not enough land to do all the things simultaneously. We have to recognize that and find better ways. This requires a lot negotiation between different sections of society and among nations.
The policy paper was published in the journal Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences. It explains why land is important in solving many of the world’s problems. It also calls for decision makers to be more proactive in correcting misconceptions about land use and sustainability.

They write that “there is very little land available for expansion of agriculture or urbanization, climate change mitigation or biodiversity conservation land uses that are ’empty or ‘free of trade-offs.”

The planet’s three-quarters of land not covered by ice have been converted to agriculture, construction of cities, and mining. The remaining land – which is often of primary importance to local residents – has been earmarked for ambitious plans for carbon emission reductions or creation of space for nature.

Dr Casey Ryan, University of Edinburgh, stated that land is a scarce resource. There are no quick fixes, no easy answers, and many trade-offs.

He said, “If you watch the news, half of Earth is being set aside to nature as an ambition by the nature conservationists. You also see zero deforestation from the last Cop (Conference of the Parties), the trillion tree agenda – all of these very well-meaning but ultimately flawed huge ideas really are not supported in the science that’s in this paper.”

The authors have distilled the science of land-use into ten “hard truths”.

  • Land can have multiple meanings and different values

  • Land use dynamics are complex and often have unexpected consequences.

  • There are distant connections to the global community

  • There are many tradeoffs

  • There are very few “win-wins”.

  • Land claims can be contested and overlapped.

  • Land benefits are not evenly distributed

  • The changes in the land use can have irreversible consequences that last for decades or even centuries.

  • Even small changes can have a significant “spillover effect”.

These facts will assist decision-makers in meeting the challenge of sustainable, just, and effective land use around the globe.