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Hong, Chaopeng; Burney, Jennifer A.; Pongratz, Julia ORCID: 0000-0003-0372-3960; Nabel, Julia E. M. S.; Mueller, Nathaniel D.; Jackson, Robert B.; Davis, Steven J. (2021): Global and regional drivers of land-use emissions in 1961-2017. In: Nature, Vol. 589, No. 7843: pp. 554-561
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Abstract

Historically, human uses of land have transformed and fragmented ecosystems1,2, degraded biodiversity3,4, disrupted carbon and nitrogen cycles5,6 and added prodigious quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere7,8. However, in contrast to fossil-fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, trends and drivers of GHG emissions from land management and land-use change (together referred to as 'land-use emissions') have not been~as comprehensively and systematically assessed. Here we present country-, process-, GHG- and product-specific inventories of global land-use emissions from 1961 to 2017, we decompose key demographic, economic and technical drivers of emissions and we assess the uncertainties and the sensitivity of results to different accounting assumptions. Despite steady increases in population (+144 per cent) and agricultural production per capita (+58 per cent), as well as smaller increases in emissions per land area used (+8 per cent), decreases in land required per unit of agricultural production (-70 per cent) kept global annual land-use emissions relatively constant at about 11 gigatonnes CO2-equivalent until 2001. After 2001, driven by rising emissions per land area, emissions increased by 2.4 gigatonnes CO2-equivalent per decade to 14.6 gigatonnes CO2-equivalent in 2017 (about 25 per cent of total anthropogenic GHG emissions). Although emissions intensity decreased in all regions, large differences across regions persist over time. The three highest-emitting regions (Latin America, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa) dominate global emissions growth from 1961 to 2017, driven by rapid and extensive growth of agricultural production and related land-use change. In addition, disproportionate emissions are related to certain products: beef and a few other red meats supply only 1 per cent of calories worldwide, but account for 25 per cent of all land-use emissions. Even where land-use change emissions are negligible or negative, total per capita CO2-equivalent land-use emissions remain near 0.5~tonnes per capita, suggesting the current frontier of mitigation efforts. Our results are consistent with existing knowledge-for example, on the role of population and economic growth and dietary choice-but provide additional insight into regional and sectoral trends.