Tag Archives: Climate

Four ways to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises simultaneously

A landmark report by the world’s most senior climate and biodiversity scientists argues that the world will have to tackle the climate crisis and the species extinction crisis simultaneously, or not at all.

That’s because Earth’s land and ocean already absorbs about half of the greenhouse gases that people emit. Wild animals, plants, fungi and microbes help maintain this carbon sink by keeping soils, forests and other ecosystems healthy.

Failing to tackle climate change meanwhile will accelerate biodiversity loss, as higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns make survival for many species more difficult. Both problems are intertwined, and so solutions to one which exacerbate the other are doomed to fail.

Luckily, there are options for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss together, called nature-based solutions. If implemented properly, these measures can enhance the richness and diversity of life on Earth, help habitats store more carbon and even reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, making ecosystems more resilient while slowing the rate at which the planet warms.

1. Protect and restore ecosystems

Everyone is familiar with the need to preserve tropical rainforests, but there are other pristine habitats, on land and in the ocean, which are in dire need of protection.

Mangrove swamps occupy less than 1% of Earth’s surface, but store the equivalent of 22 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s around two-thirds of total emissions from burning fossil fuels each year. These coastal habitats act as a home, nursery, and feeding ground for numerous species. More than 40 bird, ten reptile and six mammal species are only found in mangroves.

Under the canopy in a tropical mangrove forest.
Mangroves are particularly good at storing carbon. Velavan K/Shutterstock

Peatlands – those soggy ecosystems which include bogs, marshes and fens – store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests. The top 15cm stores more carbon below ground than tropical rainforests do above ground. In the UK, peatlands store the equivalent of ten billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and host precious plant and animals such as red grouse, mountain hares and marsh earwort.

Unfortunately, more than 80% of the UK’s peatlands are degraded in some way. A single hectare of damaged peatland can emit more than 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – equivalent to the yearly emissions of seven family cars.

Protecting these ecosystems can prevent carbon being released into the atmosphere. Restoring them where they’ve been damaged can suck carbon dioxide from the air and guarantee shelter for rare wildlife. Diverse natural systems also bounce back better from climate extremes than do species-poor, highly degraded systems, and will keep helping biodiversity and people even as Earth continues to warm.

2. Manage farmland and fisheries sustainably

Not all of the world’s land and ocean can be left to nature, but the land and ocean people use to produce food and other resources can be managed better.

People currently use about 25% of the planet’s land surface for growing food, extracting resources and living. The global food system contributes one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Methods of farming – such as agroecology, which involves incorporating trees and habitats within farm fields – and sustainable fishing practices can protect and regenerate topsoil and seabed habitats, boosting biodiversity and improving how resilient these ecosystems are to climate change.

Rows of vegetable beds with lines of young trees.
Reforestation in tandem with food growing: lettuce, cauliflowers and tomatoes grow among saplings in Brazil. Luisaazara/Shutterstock

3. Create new forests – with care

People have already cut down three trillion trees – half of all the trees which once grew on Earth.

Creating new woodlands and forests can draw down atmospheric carbon and provide diverse habitats for a range of species, but great care must be taken to plant the right mix of trees in the right place. Vast plantations of non-native trees, particularly when they’re a single species, offer less useful habitat for wildlife, but a mix of native trees can benefit biodiversity and store more carbon in the long run.

A study in south-east China showed that forests containing several tree species stored twice as much carbon as the average single-species plantation.

We can do the same thing in the ocean by restoring seagrass meadows.

4. Shift to more plant-based diets

Globally, animal agriculture is a major contributor to biodiversity loss. Millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest, African Savanna and Central Asian grassland have been ploughed up to create pasture and plant feed crops for the cows, pigs and chickens that we eat. Nearly 60% of all planet-warming emissions from food production originate in livestock rearing.

Reducing demand for meat and dairy, through diet changes and cutting waste, would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions – which itself benefits biodiversity by limiting climate change – it would also lower pressure for farmland and so reduce deforestation and habitat destruction, freeing more land for the wider use of nature-based solutions.

A vegan burger with a side of sweet potato fries.
A vegan diet is better for wildlife and the climate than a high-meat one. Rolande PG/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

Meat, especially highly processed meat, has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and bowel and stomach cancer. Plant-based diets are healthier, reduce healthcare costs and reduce carbon emissions.

A note of caution

It’s important to remember that nature-based solutions aren’t a substitute for the rapid phase out of fossil fuels. They should involve a wide range of ecosystems on land and in the sea, not just forests. Wherever they’re implemented, nature-based solutions must proceed with the full engagement and consent of Indigenous peoples and local communities, respecting their cultural and ecological rights. And nature-based solutions should be explicitly designed to provide measurable benefits for biodiversity – not just carbon sequestration.

With all this in mind, the world can design robust and resilient solutions for the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, sustaining nature and people together, now and into the future.

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About the authors:

Pete Smith currently receives research funding from UKRI, EU, Wellcome Trust and Scottish Government. He is on the science advisory team for Carbon Direct (https://carbon-direct.com/).

Mark Maslin is a Founding Director of Rezatec Ltd, Co-Director of The London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, a member of Cheltenham Science Festival Advisory Committee and a member of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group. He is an unpaid member of the Sopra-Steria CSR Board and Sheep Included Ltd Advisory Board. He has received grant funding in the past from the NERC, EPSRC, ESRC, DFG, Royal Society, DIFD, BEIS, DECC, FCO, Innovate UK, Carbon Trust, UK Space Agency, European Space Agency, Research England, Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation Sprint2020, and British Council. He has received research funding in the past from The Lancet, Laithwaites, Seventh Generation, Channel 4, JLT Re, WWF, Hermes, CAFOD, HP, and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Camille Parmesan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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What Did We Do?

Source of Inspiration

deforestation

Not even night
brings relief from the heat.
What have we done
when pools boil
in lands where
forests have been slain?

Climates gone haywire
ice caps melting
waves of water wash
life away, pollution the norm.
What have we done?

Across the globe, people
gather to find solutions
to the destruction greed
has caused. Join their voice
start the change wherever you live.
Plant a tree, save water
stop buying that which
contributes to the loss
of this earth’s resources.
Each of us can make a difference.

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Warning! Hot Weather?

JamieAdStories

Feeling the brilliant heat,

Enjoying the balmy weather,

Stop for a minute and think,

For we are getting ourselves into a tether.

This heatwave is caused by us,

So yes I’ll be making a fuss,

To me the hot weather is sad,

A reflection of all we do that is bad.

Pollution, consumption and travel,

Are putting us under the gavel,

We need to think of a way through,

Where the climate is stable but the skies are still blue.

So I agree that the hotness is fine,

But the damage it does is causing Earth to decline,

We need to get governments to start fixing this mess,

So we prevent the world becoming a desert of loneliness.

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Building a low-carbon world: the sixth industrial revolution

To avoid destroying our relationship with the planet > need to make radical changes + revolutionise way we use energy + the type of energy we use.

 

Lord (Nicholas) Stern = former Chief Economist of the World Bank + Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics + well known author of ‘The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change’ published in 2007  > led the way in explaining the economic theory of climate change + author of the acclaimed book A Blueprint for a Safer Planet: how to manage climate change and create a new era of progress and prosperity, published in 2009.

5 industrial revolutions so far: mechanisation of textiles; steam; electricity and steel; automobiles; information technology (still going) + now we need an energy industrial revolution (the 6th revolution).

we have to achieve a decarbonised economy by 40 years from now.

Carbon energy consumption = destroy our relationship with the planet, if we don’t carry out radical changes to the way we use energy + the type of energy we use from now on.

  • At the current rate, the planet’s temperature might rise by 5 ˚C or even more by the end of this century, i.e. to levels not seen before on Earth for at least 30 million years.
  • Conceptual science predicted and measured GHG in the atmosphere long before now and there’s evidence that El Niño and La Niña events are more frequent now.

we need to make radical changes to the way we use energy and the type of energy we use, everywhere in the world and in every sector = Energy efficiency easiest way to start.

if we fail in managing climate change, we will fail to stop poverty

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It’s a New Year!

Here and Now
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Dr Vera Lucia Barbosa's Environmental Blog

Nicholas-Stern_160x166 To avoid destroying our relationship with the planet, we’ll need to make radical changes and revolutionise the way we use energy and the type of energy we use. Are policies and people in networks and communities what will ultimately make it happen? I wrote this blog four years ago, when I was the editor for Environmental Impact and as such attended the Annual Dorchester Lecture, which was delivered by Lord Stern, at the Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire.

Lord (Nicholas) Stern is a former Chief Economist of the World Bank and he is a Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics. He is well known as the author of ‘The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change’ published in 2007 and which led the way in explaining the economic theory of climate change. He is also the author of the acclaimed book A Blueprint for…

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