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The Contribution That Nature Can Have Regarding Climate Change

Millions of people around the world are struggling to survive in the face of climate change, which has brought droughts, floods, and more frequent storms. Climate change is not a problem for the future; it is a problem for the present, and we must act now. While nature can be a powerful ally in adapting to these impacts, its contributions are often undervalued.

Conservation News recently talked to Emily Nyrop, who oversees climate at Conservation International, and scientist Dave Hole about how to use nature as a climate solution as much as possible in 2023.Hole explained that their focus this year and beyond will be on climate adaptation. The world has already experienced a roughly 1.1 degree Celsius average global temperature rise, and this will only continue to increase given the limited progress on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we need to find ways to reduce our vulnerability to the impacts we're already experiencing and prepare for the increasing risks that are inevitable in the future.

Many of the countries and communities that are least responsible for climate change are facing the greatest threats because they rely so heavily on nature. Finding ways to help them adapt to new climate realities is not only a practical need but also a climate justice issue and a moral responsibility. They are working to figure out how they can better harness nature to help fight climate change and adapt to the changes that are already here.

Nyrop noted that we are in a race to avoid irreversible impacts from climate change, but we also know what we need to do to get there. Last year, Conservation International released the Exponential Roadmap for Natural Climate Solutions, which lays out a path for maximizing nature's role in tackling global warming. Land use is the largest cause of ecosystem loss and is responsible for nearly one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. To reach our climate goals, the world must reach net-zero emissions from land, including agriculture and forestry, by 2030 and make sure that managed lands absorb 10 gigatons of carbon each year by 2050.

Conservation International plans to start bringing the roadmap to life this year through close partnerships with governments, businesses, financial institutions, and local communities that scale up action and improve nature's ability to store carbon. The actions they recommend incorporate centuries-old practices such as improving the health of our soils with regenerative practices, avoiding the overuse of fertilizer to reduce runoff that pollutes waterways, and implementing climate-smart grazing practices like rotating animals across fields. They will be working closely with field programs and partners around the world to put these recommendations into action and to expand and replicate effective programs. It won't be a one-size-fits-all approach because every country has unique ecosystems and cultures. Hole gave the example of Herding 4 Health, a successful program that helps herders use climate-smart land management techniques, like rotating grazing, to restore the nature they depend on. Currently, the program is in six countries across Africa and protects more than 1.5 million hectares of rangeland. There is a lot of room for it to grow into many more countries and become a strong investment opportunity that helps herders make a living, store carbon, and take care of rangeland ecosystems.

When asked what makes them hopeful for 2023, Nyrop and Hole agreed that the urgency of climate change is being better understood. The collective consciousness around the need to act is growing. Hole added that there is a better understanding of how efforts to address and adapt to climate change can complement each other. For example, when they work with a local community to protect a forest and conserve its vital carbon stores, that is also going to have benefits for biodiversity and help that community adapt to future risks like floods. It's all connected. They have the knowledge to get to a better place; they just have to make the right choices.

Emily Nyrop. (n.d.). Emily Nyrop.

Conservation International. (n.d.). Conservation International.


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