Projects that oversee, secure, and restore ecosystems are broadly seen as win-win methodologies for addressing two of this current century’s greatest difficulties: climate change and biodiversity loss. However, the likely commitment of such nature-based solutions to alleviating climate change stays disputable.
A new study by the Oxford University suggests that Nature-based solutions (NbS) can contribute to the fight against climate change up to the end of our century. NbS measures, including the protection and large-scale restoration of ecosystems and improved land management, could cut peak global warming by between 0.1°C for a 1.5°C peak warming target, to 0.3°C for a 2.0°C peak warming target.
This would be accomplished by eliminating as much as ten gigatons of CO2 each year from 2025 onwards – more than the global transportation sector’s annual emissions, at the expense of under US$100 per ton of CO2.
Even after a temperature rise, NbS could cool the planet by reducing global warming by a significant 0.1°C by 2055 and 0.4°C by 2100.
Lead author Cécile A. J. Girardin, technical director of Oxford’s Nature-Based Solutions Initiative, said, “The world must invest now in nature-based solutions that are ecologically sound, socially equitable, and designed to deliver multiple benefits to society over a century or more. Properly managed, the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of our working lands could benefit many generations to come.”
Nature-based solutions work with nature to address societal difficulties while giving advantages to both human prosperity and biodiversity – and they have been made a key focus of November’s COP26 environmental change conference in November.
Co-author Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Oxford Professor of Ecosystem Science, comments, ‘The more ambitious the climate target, the shorter the timeframe for such solutions to affect peak warming.’
Professor Myles Allen adds, ‘Hence corporate claims of ambitious climate goals, but medium-term plans that rely on NbS as an alternative to reducing fossil fuel emissions, just don’t stack up.’
The reports suggest that if we can’t control global warming now, wildfires and other ecological damage could reduce the effectiveness of NbS. Hence, it is essential to pay close attention to their long-term carbon sink potential and their impacts on biodiversity, equity, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Co-author Professor Nathalie Seddon, Founding Director of Oxford’s Nature-based Solutions Initiative, said, “An ambitious scaling-up of nature-based solutions needs to be implemented fast but also carefully, in a way that supports biodiversity and local people’s rights while keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”
- Cécile A. J. Girardin et al. Nature-based solutions can help cool the planet — if we act now. DOI: 10.1038/d41586-021-01241-2