There’s a new study out spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy and published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences which presents a series of 20 steps that can be taken to naturally mitigate the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Taken together, the effect on carbon levels would be equivalent to stopping the use of fossil fuels entirely.
Here is the abstract of the study:
trees lower carbon levelMost nations recently agreed to hold global average temperature rise to well below 2 °C. We examine how much climate mitigation nature can contribute to this goal with a comprehensive analysis of “natural climate solutions” (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and/or improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands.
We show that NCS can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2 °C. Alongside aggressive fossil fuel emissions reductions, NCS offer a powerful set of options for nations to deliver on the Paris Climate Agreement while improving soil productivity, cleaning our air and water, and maintaining biodiversity.
More importantly, the authors believe most of the strategies they recommend can be implemented at a cost of no more than $100 per ton of carbon dioxide, with some costing as little as $10 per ton. Comparatively, some of the carbon capture technologies being tested today will cost as much as $1,000 per ton.
Replanting forests, protection of peatlands that store carbon dioxide, and improved management of agricultural and grasslands could constitute more than a third of the actions needed to meet the climate targets established by the COP21 Paris climate accords, the researchers say.
Their research shows the benefits of reforestation would be 30% greater than a UN panel thought possible in 2014. “Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,” they say.
Combined, “regreening of the planet” would be equivalent to ending the burning of all oil worldwide. Overall, better management of nature could keep more than 11 billion ton of carbon dioxide emission out of the atmosphere each year by 2030. That alone is equal to all of China’s annual emissions from burning fossil fuels today.
“Fortunately, this research shows we have a huge opportunity to reshape our food and land use systems,” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said in a statement following the release of the report.
“If we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature,” added Mark Tercek, chief executive officer of The Nature Conservancy, which led the study.
What the report implies but doesn’t say directly is that clear cutting of existing forests for grazing and farming has a direct and serious impact on global carbon dioxide levels. “Trees Are Cool,” reads a popular bumper sticker. They are also essential to keeping global average temperature rise below 2º C. We need to stop cutting them down while planting new ones.