The Climate in Changing
Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) keep our planet at the right temperature for life. Without the natural greenhouse effect, the heat emitted by the Earth would escape into space and the Earth would have an average temperature of about -20°C. Too much GHG in the atmosphere however, traps heat from the sun and radiates it down to earth. The more GHG we release, the more heat from the sun is trapped in our atmosphere, and the more havoc is wreaked on the climate. As a result, the world is seeing increased volatility in our weather, with growing droughts, floods, and wildfires. In time and as temperatures increase, permafrost will thaw, sea levels will rise, oceans will become less habitable for sea life, and much of humanity could face insurmountable challenges.
The Planet's Heating Up
To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the Paris Agreement requires its signatories to reduce their GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030 and to be net zero by 2050.
Even if we stopped all future emissions today, there is too much GHG in the atmosphere to prevent serious climate change. We need to start sequestering GHGs at scale.
Even in a world of 100% energy efficiency, renewable energy and electrification the world will still be billions of tonnes away annually from achieving Net Zero. We need to sequester existing and future emissions from the atmosphere at scale and nothing sequesters carbon at scale presently, like nature-based solutions.
Harnessing the power of nature, these solutions employ various ecosystems and their inherent processes to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mitigating the impacts of climate change. Trees, forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other natural environments play a crucial role in sequestering carbon. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and convert it into organic matter, locking away the carbon within their biomass and the soil. This natural carbon capture and storage mechanism helps to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, thus slowing down global warming.
Forests, in particular, are invaluable carbon sinks. Trees act as carbon reservoirs, absorbing carbon dioxide through their leaves and storing it in their trunks, branches, and roots. Additionally, forests enhance carbon sequestration by providing suitable conditions for soil carbon storage. The organic matter in forest soils acts as a long-term carbon sink, sequestering carbon for decades to centuries.
Wetlands, too, offer significant carbon sequestration potential. These water-rich ecosystems support the growth of vegetation that rapidly accumulates organic matter. Over time, this organic matter becomes buried in wetland sediments, effectively locking away substantial amounts of carbon.
Grasslands, with their extensive root systems, also contribute to carbon sequestration. Grasses and perennial plants capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their roots, helping to build and maintain carbon-rich soils.
Nature-based solutions not only sequester carbon but also provide additional co-benefits. These ecosystems enhance biodiversity, support wildlife habitats, regulate water cycles, prevent soil erosion, and promote overall ecosystem health and provide meaningful work and remuneration to local and Indigenous landowners.. Unlike some technological carbon capture methods that are still in early stages of development and deployment, nature-based solutions are already well-established and accessible. They offer a cost-effective and sustainable approach to combating climate change.
By prioritising the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of natural ecosystems, we can harness nature's potential to sequester carbon on a significant scale. Embracing nature-based solutions provides a practical and immediate pathway towards a more sustainable and resilient future, mitigating the impacts of climate change while preserving the beauty and functionality of our natural world.