"These two issues are very intimately related in the way you can describe them as two halfs of a coin," according to Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Spanish Environment Minister Cristina Narbona also addressed the twin problem during a round table discussion Wednesday on "desertification and adaptation to climate change" at the UN-sponsored conference which opened on September 3.
"Desertification, the loss of biodiversity and climate change are three inextricably linked aspects" of the problem being addressed at the conference by ministers and scientists from around the globe, according to de Boer.
"Climate change already has had a major impact on desertification and what the scientists are telling us is that if we fail on climate change the impact in terms of desertification is going to be much worse because you'll see changes in rainfall pattern leading to more desertification," said de Boer, a Dutchman.
"Not putting in place renewable sources of energy will lead to people cutting more trees to produce fire wood and contribute to further desertification. About 80 percent of deforestation in tropical areas is caused by people gathering fire wood simply to cook their food," de Boer added.
Guatemalan Environment Minister Juan Mario Dary Fuentes illustrated the link between poverty, deforestation and desertification, a phenomenon threatening an estimated 48 percent of his country's surface area.