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Why natural solutions are crucial to mitigating climate change

According to a new study, better land management could be a game changer for mitigating the effects of climate change.

The study was conducted by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions and published in the journal Proceedings of the Academy of Science. It is the largest assessment to date of natural climate solutions and how they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What is particularly exciting about the study is that it accounts for the rising global demand for food and fiber while still recommending solutions that both protect and restore natural resources and land.

“This new study shows how we can massively increase action on land use – in tandem with increased action on energy, transport, finance, industry, and infrastructure – to put emissions on their downward trajectory by 2020,” said Christiana Figueres, the former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The research projected that using natural climate solutions could cut emissions by 11.3 billion tonnes by 2030, a figure that also factored in cost constraints. Without cost constraints, the researchers estimate that emissions could be reduced by 23.8 billion tonnes.

Even 11.3 billion tonnes would be a major step in the right direction, as it would account for 37 percent of the reduction in emissions needed to keep temperatures from warming two degrees Celsius.

The study identifies four main strategies to improve land management and enhance natural climate solutions: more trees, protection and management of peatlands, better agricultural practices, and expanded public and private sector climate action on land.

Trees have the most potential to effectively reduce carbon emissions. Better land management practices, including reforestation efforts, could cut carbon emissions by seven billion tonnes.

But real change will require more than planting new trees. One of the main problems that comes with reforestation efforts is how to manage livestock and grazing, which compete for space.

Either way, better agricultural practices are vital to mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. According to the study, better farming practices could result in a 22 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission while still keeping up with the rise in global food demand.

Protecting wetlands and peatlands is also important, as they store huge amounts of carbon. Erosion and agriculture account for 1.9 million acres of peatlands that are lost each year. It has been estimated that peatlands hold one-quarter of the world’s carbon stored in soils, and keeping them intact will help keep emissions in check.

The study also notes the importance of more policies that deal with natural climate solutions and land management. As it stands, there is 30 times more money invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean transport solutions than natural solutions.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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