Clear-cutting trees is ruining the environment’s balance. Partaking in fast fashion is almost as negatively impacting. Every action, necessity, and business structure emits more carbon dioxide than the planet can handle — particularly as the population increases exponentially while running headfirst toward positive climate goals. Habitats and biodiversity suffer from advanced machinery and technology attempting to heal the planet when humans could move to nature-based solutions to reduce and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions instead. Which of these mindsets supersede the other in efficiency and effectiveness?
What Are Nature-Based Solutions, and What Are Examples?
Instead of depending on humanmade inventions or actions to wrangle carbon, nature-based solutions maximize nature’s ability to remove and store carbon dioxide. The goal is to make organic processes work overtime without impacting wildlife, and humans have a more comprehensive range of net sinks. It will supplement other efforts like decarbonization and renewable energy.
It also includes minimizing how many stressors humans force upon natural processes. How can woodlands exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen during photosynthesis if the trees are not plentiful? Unfortunately, calculating how many trees it would take to cover the costs of every American citizen’s carbon footprint — around 200 billion trees — is not the complete solution.
Farms can sequester carbon with more refined land management practices. Every action on the land has a trickle effect on surrounding ecosystems. For example, excessive chemical fertilizers or pesticides become runoff into local rivers or peatlands, killing carbon-sequestering phytoplankton that makes water so efficient at capturing carbon.
How Do They Compare to Other Climate Mitigation Tactics?
Around 84% of nations consider nature-driven solutions an integral part of a successful climate mitigation strategy when submitting their efforts to the Paris Agreement committee. There is value in these methods — otherwise, their popularity would not be as noticeable. Comparing them to other traditional efforts proves their validity with a healthy side of patience to reap a rewarding return on investment.
Restoring a fen to the right wetness to reintroduce species into its ecosystem happens over years, not days. Despite many nations wanting to encourage these projects, seeing them through to completion is a challenge.
People can combine nature-based solutions with efforts like renewable energy. Imagine preventing coastal erosion by protecting breakwaters or tombolos and replanting seagrasses. It can encourage more productive hydropower for underwater turbines instead of relying on more environmentally disturbing methods like dams.
Nature-based solutions are more effective in offsetting the severity of natural disasters. Mangroves can protect communities from storms. Towering sand dunes fight against oncoming gusts. National efforts to plant shelterbelts helped communities recover from the American Dust Bowl.
Evidently, planting more trees and related efforts will assist in reducing the global temperature, hopefully eliminating a recent trend of erratic, frequent, and powerful natural disasters worldwide. In the meantime, nature-based solutions control carbon while saving nations from natural onslaughts.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Nature-Based Mitigation?
Nations invest heavily in nature-based solutions because they are playing the long game. The benefits will be radical from a big-picture perspective but gradual in reality.
Australia’s Climate Resilient by Nature program is investing $9.5 million in conservation and restoration plans in the Indo-Pacific, alongside incorporating savanna fire management practices to protect their Indigenous people. Australia and other nations are executing these budgets because of the proven benefits of pursuing nature-based plans:
- Reduced illness and health care spending because of cleaner air and water worldwide
- Increased biodiversity and species resilience in healthy habitats
- Increased educational awareness of environmental processes and biodiversity
- Reduced resistance to harmonizing with natural methods
- Increased plant life to aid in flood and erosion management
Humans try to achieve environmental balance with well-intended techniques, but sometimes, actions like monoculture afforestation place structures and species in environments that were never their home. It is one instance where nature-based intentions could cloud the propensity for adverse impact, among other cons, such as:
- Minimal oversight could render long-term projects moot from ignorance.
- Regulations may not protect marginalized communities from nature-based projects.
- Encourages greenwashing, as actions like tree planting can hide a company’s neglect from pursuing other greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
- Reduced effectiveness of nature-based solutions overall as climate change stresses environmental processes.
Will Humans Embrace Nature-Based?
Nature-based solutions in a tech-driven world will have difficulty incorporating themselves, though they are not mutually exclusive. Productivity and efficiency are some of the most critical pillars in climate change mitigation, and nature-based solutions may not consistently deliver.
Despite not being complete solutions, they are ideal supplements to other climate-change-reduction methods. Encouraging nature-based solutions also promotes research and development in cleaner techniques to achieve sustainable development goals.