Nature Can Be Used to Repair a Broken Climate
LONDON (September 21, 2019) — The protection and restoration of living ecosystems such as forests, mangroves and seagrass meadows can repair the planet’s broken climate but are being overlooked, Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot have warned in a new short film.
Natural climate solutions could remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as plants grow. But these methods receive only 2% of the funding spent on cutting emissions, say the climate activists.
Their call to protect, restore and fund natural climate solutions comes ahead of a global climate strike led by young people on Friday and a UN climate action summit of world leaders in New York on Monday. The film will be shown to heads of state and the UN’s climate and biodiversity chiefs in New York.
Restoring nature also helps protect people from the increasing extreme weather events the climate crisis is bringing, as trees help prevent flooding and mangroves protect coasts. Furthermore, the annihilation of wildlife that has resulted in animal populations falling by 60% since 1970 can be tackled be recreating lost habitat. However, it remains vital that fossil fuel burning is stopped if the climate emergency is to be ended.
‘We Are Ignoring Natural Climate Solutions’
Greta Thunberg & George Monbiot
“Right now, we are ignoring natural climate solutions,” said Thunberg. “We spend 1,000 times more on global fossil fuel subsidies than on nature-based solutions. This is your money, it is your taxes, and your savings.”
“Nature is a tool we can use to repair our broken climate,” said Monbiot, an author and Guardian journalist who founded a Natural Climate Solutions campaign earlier this year. “These solutions could make a massive difference, but only if we leave fossil fuels in the ground as well.”
Shyla Raghav from Conservation International, which helped fund the film, said: “The fact is, we simply will not succeed in avoiding climate breakdown without nature.”
Global carbon emissions must be halved in the next decade to avoid serious impacts from global heating, but they are still rising. It is therefore near certain that carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere, and technology such as burying CO2 underground has not been demonstrated at scale.
In the film, Monbiot says: “There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It’s called a tree.” A recent scientific analysis concluded that growing billions of trees across the world is the single biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, though coal, oil and gas burning must also end.
“We are living in the beginning of a mass extinction and our climate is breaking down,” says Thunberg in the film. “But we can still fix this — you can still fix this.”
“It’s simple,” she says. “We need to protect, restore, and fund.” That means protecting tropical forests that are being cut down at the rate of 30 football pitches a minute, she said, restoring the large areas of the planet that have been damaged and stopping the funding of things that destroy nature and instead paying for activities that help it.
The film’s producer, Tom Mustill of Gripping Films, said: “We tried to make the film have the tiniest environmental impact possible. We took trains to Sweden to interview Greta, charged our hybrid car at George’s house, used green energy to power the edit and recycled archive footage rather than shooting new.”
Experts Say There Are 36 Ways To Halve Global Emissions By 2030
There’s still hope if we act fast, experts write in the new Exponential Climate Action Roadmap.
(September 20, 2019) — As the climate crisis continues to show its hand ― through catastrophic fires, scorching summers, powerful hurricanes and melting Arctic ice ― a debate rages as to how we should respond. Some, recently Jonathan Franzen writing in The New Yorker, suggest we should accept what they say is now an unstoppable, impending catastrophe. But many others, from scientists to those taking part in the global climate strikes this week and next, say there is still hope.
Those advocating optimism can find support in a new study, published on Thursday, which says that the world can halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 if it concentrates on 36 key solutions, including solar and wind power, electric cars and reduced red meat consumption.
The Exponential Climate Action Roadmap, compiled by 55 experts across science, academia, policy and consultancy, aims to serve as a plan of action to keep the world within 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), consistent with the target set in the Paris climate change agreement to keep global temperature rises well below 2 degrees C (3.6 F). Beyond this, the possibility of the world tipping into unstoppable and catastrophic climate change becomes much more likely.
These ideas are not new, and many are already happening. It’s the pace of change that’s the problem.
“While solutions exist,” the report says, “the scale of transformation requires system-wide action accelerated by climate leadership, much stronger policy, finance and exponential technologies.”
Here’s a look at some of the report’s key suggestions:
Solar and wind are cheaper ― stop propping up fossil fuels
While investment continues to pour into fossil fuels, and governments around the world pay out $5.2 trillion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, solar and wind power are now in many instances cheaper. Last year, renewables accounted for nearly 75% of all electricity installations, according to the report.
Allowing renewables like wind and solar to continue to grow exponentially would halve emissions from electricity generation over the next decade, according to the report. With the right policies and pricings, cities could see as much as 70% of their electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030.
The report also calls for policies supporting those who may lose out in the transition to renewables ― for example coal miners ― so they do not get left behind socially or economically.
Embrace electric cars
We have the technology and the capability to reduce transport emissions to zero, according to the report, which says that if the rapid growth of electric cars is allowed to continue, 90% of cars could be electric by 2030.
Cities are already making commitments. Seattle is planning a ban on new fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030. The trajectory is even clearer in Europe, with more than two-dozen cities, including Paris and London, setting bans on fossil fuel-powered cars within the next decade. And automakers, such as Volkswagen and Volvo, have made commitments to produce only electric or hybrid vehicles.
Better mass transit and a move away from private car ownership to sharing are also recommended.
Cut down on meat
It’s no secret that the food system is broken, featuring unsustainable farming practices that cause deforestation, pollution and biodiversity loss. And while there is enough food to feed the global population, 820 million people don’t have enough to eat.
“Food and agriculture is the dark horse in the fight against climate change. It may be the hardest sector to rapidly halve emissions,” said Brent Loken from the EAT Foundation, who wrote the report’s chapter on food.
The report calls for removing the subsidies that help prop up an unhealthy, intensive and destructive food system. More than $1 million a minute of public money is being spent on these subsidies globally, according to a different report, published on Monday.
Diet is another pressure point. A raft of recent studies have pointed to a need to reduce meat intake and adopt a more plant-based diet, especially for those living in rich countries. The new report calls for a move to diets plentiful in fruits, legumes and vegetables.
Natural systems, from forests to peatlands, store huge amounts of carbon, but many of these ecosystems are being destroyed for agriculture and industry. The report suggests nature-based solutions, including halting deforestation and reforesting, reducing the use of fertilizers, better managing farmland and restoring peatland. These solutions could potentially store 9.1 billion tons of CO2 a year, according to the report.
Make industry less dirty
Stronger emissions standards, especially for climate-intensive industries such as steel, cement and plastics, are key, says the report. It calls for all industries to set targets to halve their emissions by 2030.
The report also advocates a circular economy model that keeps resources in the economy for as long as possible ― through reuse, repurposing and recycling ― rather than sending them straight to landfill.
“This could provide half of the emissions reductions we need by 2030 from key industry,” said Johan Falk, co-lead author on the report and a fellow at Stockholm Resilience Centre and Future Earth, Sweden.
New technology, says the report, would allow better tracking of where products come from and where they end up, as well as help make processes more efficient.
Give power to the people
Social movements are a key part of this change, according to the report. It mentions the Fridays for Future movement, kicked off by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, which has seen school-aged children around the world striking from classes to protest global inaction on the climate crisis.
The movement is gaining momentum, and is the driving force behind global climate strikes happening this month in which will see people of all ages take to the streets to demand action.
These movements are having an impact. Earlier this year, Mohammed Barkindo, the OPEC secretary general, said the growing mass mobilization against oil is beginning to “dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry.”
Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and who was involved in the report, said: “I see all evidence that social and economic tipping points are aligning. We can now say the next decade has the potential to see the fastest economic transition in history”
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Greta Thunberg testfies before Congress