The warning comes almost a year after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
concluded in a landmark report that we only have until 2030
to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and prevent the planet from reaching the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The second IPCC report highlights the vicious cycle of climate change and land degradation.
"We humans affect more than 70% of ice-free land, a quarter of this land is degraded. The way we produce food and what we eat contributes to the loss of natural ecosystems and declining biodiversity," said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of the IPCC.
Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of droughts
, flooding and heat waves, which can irreversibly destroy natural ecosystems and lead to food shortages.
Deforestation and agriculture also fuel global warming, by weakening land's capacity to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emitting vast amounts of greenhouse gases.
"When land is degraded, it reduces the soils ability to take up carbon and this exacerbates climate change. In turn, climate change exacerbates land degradation in many different ways. Today 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification," Masson-Delmotte said.
Scientists say that we must immediately change the way we manage land, produce food and eat less meat
in order to halt the climate crisis.
But the report does offer hope, there are major opportunities to reverse the damage, the IPCC notes.
Planting trees on farmland
, known as agroforestry, better soil management and reducing food waste are win-win solutions which can boost land productivity and reduce emissions.
Here are five key takeaways from the IPCC report:
Land the size of South America has been degraded
Human use takes up over 70% of the world's ice-free land surface, according to the IPCC report.
They degrade the planet's natural resources, with chemical fertilizers, deforestation and intensive farming. In the process, humans have damaged two billion hectares of land, the size of South America.
As a result, this land is less fertile and captures smaller quantities of carbon emissions from the atmosphere, according to Stephen Cornelius, the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) chief advisor on climate change.
"The way we use land is driving the climate crisis," he told CNN. "Ecosystem conversion releases greenhouse gas emissions.
Land use, including agriculture and deforestation, produces almost a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
We need to stop wasting food and eat less meat