The desertification-global warming feedback

drought-little.jpgHere is yet another carbon-cycle amplifying feedback not in most climate models.

On the one hand, the United Nations’ top climate official, Yvo de Boer, announced that

Climate change has become the prime cause of an accelerating spread of deserts which threatens the world’s drylands.

On the other hand, he pointed out that desertification would, in turn, accelerate climate change:

“You’ll see a sort of feedback mechanism … quite a lot of carbon is captured in soil, so with more desertification (exposing the soil), you also get more CO2 emissions. They are two halves of the same coin.”

Well, two sides of the same coin, anyway. But we get his point. He was interviewed at a U.N. desertification conference in Madrid. What’s coming?

Major deserts like the Sahara, Gobi and Kalahari are all expanding and desertification has begun to threaten countries like Spain and Kazakhstan, where swathes of cropland have had to be abandoned in the last three decades.

The U.N. estimates that more than 250 million people are directly affected by desertification and approximately one billion in over 100 countries are at risk.

But not to worry. Bj¸rn Lomborg says it’s going to wetter elsewhere on the planet, so overall we’ll be in better shape — more flooding, you say? Well then just build better levees….

3 Responses to The desertification-global warming feedback

  1. IANVS says:


    Any info on when these various positive feedbacks are expected to be programmed into climate models? thx

  2. Joe says:

    If there is a Fifth Assessment in 5 or 6 years, I expect more of the models will have the feedbacks.

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