The IPCC Land Use report: What can we do on the ground in Thurston County?

By Paul Pickett | Environmental Engineer and Thurston Conservation District Supervisor | Contributing Writer

farm photoThe IPCC Land Use report (1) challenges us to address our agricultural and food systems globally to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the climate instability yet to come. But how can we bring this complex wonky report down to earth here in our home community? Here are some thoughts about how we can think globally and grow and choose our food better locally. Words in italicsare quotes from the Summary for Policymakers (2).

  1. …save resources, amplify social resilience, support ecological restoration, and foster engagement and collaboration between multiple stakeholders.
    • We should look closely at our land use planning and regulation in our County. Are we preserving farm land? Are we promoting local production? Are we encouraging food choices that reduce our carbon footprint? We should especially look closely at our County Comprehensive Plan, currently under review.
    • We should beef up our zoning ordinances to make it as difficult as possible to convert land from farming.
  2. …improving access to markets, securing land tenure, factoring environmental costs into food, making payments for ecosystem services, and enhancing local and community collective action.
    • We should increase access to local food producers through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, and other methods
    • We need to help our local farms remain economically viable, to keep farmers in business and encourage younger people to choose sustainable agriculture as a profession.
    • Taxes and subsidies at the local and State level should be examined to encourage local sustainable farming and to add a carbon price signal to food that is produced with a high carbon footprint (through both carbon-intensive agriculture and the importation of food from distant locations).
  3. The effectiveness of decision-making and governance is enhanced by the involvement of local stakeholders (particularly those most vulnerable to climate change including indigenous peoples and local communities, women, and the poor and marginalised)
    We should build our outreach and education efforts about climate-friendly farming and food to ensure we are addressing the needs of under-represented communities.
  4. …enhance technology transfer and deployment, enable financial mechanisms, implement early warning systems, undertake risk management…
    Through our local governments and the Conservation District, we can implement programs to support sustainable farming, build up carbon in our soils, monitor our local meteorological climate signals, and address droughts and flooding through vulnerability assessments a risk management approach to planning.
  5. Delaying climate mitigation and adaptation responses across sectors would lead to increasingly negative impacts on land and reduce the prospect of sustainable development… However, near-term action to address climate change adaptation and mitigation … can bring social, ecological, economic and development co-benefits … (which) can contribute to poverty eradication and more resilient livelihoods for those who are vulnerable. We should evaluate the co-benefits to Thurston County and include them in our education and outreach. Optimizing local sustainable food production and increasing climate-friendly food choices can support a vibrant local economy, build a diverse community, and address the needs of those in poverty.
(1) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems”
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