While technological fixes to climate change are exciting, there’s a much simpler (albeit, less futuristic) solution: nature. As the environmental nonprofit, The Nature Conservancy explained in a video ahead of COP26, electric cars, renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels are vital steps. But they’re not enough.
To overcome this crisis, we need nature, which the organisation describes as: “The most sophisticated system for processing greenhouse gases in the universe, which only has hundreds of millions of years on us.”
To demonstrate nature’s force, here are just a few examples of how it would help keep global warming well below 2℃ over pre-industrial levels, as aimed for by COP21’s 2015 Paris Agreement.
1. Preserve what we have
By ending the destruction of existing forests, grasslands and wetlands, we could remove around 3.9 billion metric tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. Biodiverse habitats such as these absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) through a process known as photosynthesis. Plant cells transform CO2 and water into glucose, which provides the energy for growth. This is also how marine algae absorb CO2, making their coral reef habitats particularly valuable too. With all the work plants are doing to protect our planet, we can’t cope without them.
2. Restore what we’ve lost
In light of these benefits, we should also restore the forests and wetlands we’ve lost. Plenty of organisations have already started this work, including The Woodland Trust and WWF. Carefully reintroducing native species and managing their growth, their skilled staff are building back these vital carbon sinks.
3. Learn from traditional land management
On top of these first two options, if societies adopt more sustainable farming and forestry techniques we could cut another 5.1 billion tonnes of CO2 from our emissions. This could involve using organic farming practices, crop rotation, and leaving tracts of land to grow into wildlife habitats.
Together, these natural solutions could remove 11 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, the equivalent of a line of SUVs from Earth to the moon 56 times over. It’s no small contribution. In fact, it would cover a third of necessary emission reductions.
To get behind some of this vital work, support The Nature Conservancy here.