Nature Can Save Humanity From Climate Disaster – But Not Alone

Here’s what you shouldn’t do, says Girardin: Clear forests and plant new trees so that societies can offset their carbon emissions. “We give examples in the map of virgin rainforests that are cut down so that you can plant planting forests to offset someone’s emissions from a flight,” he says. “It just doesn’t make sense.” Or communities that are displaced by the land they have used for subsistence, also to plant forests for rapid carbon gains. This kind of situation makes no sense. ”

Mono-cultivating trees to compensate for someone’s air miles won’t work, agrees Peter Ellis, global director of climate sciences at the Nature Conservancy, who was not involved in the new journal. But the return of an ecosystem to its natural state could better prepare us to survive the climate change we are experiencing. “More biodiversity ecosystems instill greater resilience to future climate impacts,” says Ellis. “And they provide important benefits that people are interested in, which will help them keep investing in maintaining those natural climate solutions.”

This is critical to gaining from residents who depend on those ecosystems for food and clean water — explaining the immediate and local benefits of reforestation, not just the long-term benefit to the global community. “Unless we’re talking about the benefits of water quality,” says Daniela Miteva, an environmental economist at Ohio State University, “that many trees provide, and the reduction of malaria, or things that local people are interested in, it’s very difficult to get buy-in communities. ”

Miteva is working on nature-based solutions in northern Uganda and Indonesia. (I was not involved in this new work.) The two countries are struggling with deforestation, but each local situation is unique, depending on historical property rights, for example. For example, a government could provide money to families for not clearing a particular forest, known as “payment for ecosystem service”.

“Unless we can talk about other benefits coupled with carbon, getting this idea accepted locally is very difficult – at least it’s been my experience,” says Miteva. “There’s also a notion of whites going to the Global South and telling people what to do – the whole notion of carbon colonialism.”

An added difficulty is that advocates are trying to implement nature-based solutions on a planet with a growing human population. The more people who live on Earth, the more land we need to feed everyone. “There’s this tension between the desire to preserve natural systems of biodiversity while supporting and feeding people, and it’s a challenge,” says biogeochemist Rich Conant, who studies nature-based solutions at Colorado State University. but he was not involved in this new work. “Fortunately, I think, a large part of the land we use for agriculture is used quite inefficiently, and so I think there is a lot of purpose to increase food production on the land.” That could include strategies such as improving irrigation and varying crops to increase yields while using the same amount of land.

But it’s important to add that people can’t just repair ecosystems, sit back, and let nature do all the work. The same goes for relying on new technologies such as “direct air capture,” machines that aspirate the carbon out of the air and shut it underground. This is the moral hazard of climate change: Distracting us with ways to trap our greenhouse gases when we have to do everything in our power to cut them completely — and fast!

“People feel like they don’t care or people, nature will save us,” says Ellis. “It’s the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night. First of all, we I know nature, and we need to work in concert with it. But we need to put the pedal to the metal and shoot at all the cylinders if we’re going to pull ourselves as humans, and our fellow passengers on the Earth Spaceship, out of this situation that we’re in. ” .

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