Environment

Can nature help us to combat climate change?

Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss, and protecting, conserving and restoring biodiversity is crucial to addressing climate change.

ByNaorem Munal Meitei

Updated 2 Nov 2022, 8:47 am

(PHOTO: IFP)
(PHOTO: IFP)

Mother nature is a living being. Everything humans need are provided by mother nature. She is the vital source of life. The healthier our ecosystem is, the healthier the planet and its people. Each living being is an integral part of mother nature. Thus, humans worry about climate change but we are saved by mother nature.

Earth’s land and ocean currently absorb about half of all CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and other sources which is almost three times as much as currently present in the atmosphere. Peat-lands, wetlands, soil, forests and oceans play a crucial role in absorbing and storing carbon. Otherwise earth’s carbon building in the atmosphere would have been double as we have now. But the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere is too high that the planet will no longer be in the position to absorb more carbon in future. Carbon levels in the atmosphere hovered between 180 and 280 PPM until about the 1800s but after the Industrial Revolution, the levels have increased 2.5 times to more than 421 PPM now. 

Mother earth provides us with air, water, food and shelter. When we destroy the planet, we start destroying our survival. The best way to save mother earth is by reducing our carbon footprint. Mother nature can be a great ally in the fight against climate change because she can absorb and store the maximum of CO2. But if her biodiversity and ecosystems continue to be destroyed then mother nature may turn on us instead.

Mother nature provides some powerful carbon sinks, which remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they release. The best known are trees, which absorb CO2 through photosynthesis and then lock the carbon for its lifetime. But with current rates of deforestation, we are exacerbating the problem – accelerating more carbon than to decelerate in the air.

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But there are other powerful natural carbon sinks, soils (30 per cent), Forests (21 per cent) and the Oceans (40 per cent). In fact, without these carbon sinks, atmospheric CO2 levels would be well above 600 ppm, the level not compatible for a 2°C future.

If we’re not careful, nature could become our foe and not our ally in the fight against the climate crisis. Take for instance, peat-lands - despite covering just 3 per cent of Earth’s surface area - store twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. But drained peat-lands for urban or agricultural expansion are responsible for about 4 per cent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas. Thus, we need to conserve peat-lands and restore those degraded through re-wetting.

Amazon rainforest - taking a pivotal role in the climate crisis - has been found by emitting more CO2 than it absorbs. Scientists found that due to deforestation and farm fires, they emit 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 but have reduced removing capacity to 0.5 billion tonnes making 1.0 billion tonnes left in the atmosphere a year which is equivalent to the annual emissions of Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest polluter.

Now, it appears that our actions are turning nature against us. Nature’s capacity to absorb CO2 has come to the forefront in climate change discussions. At COP26 last year in Glasgow, world leaders signed a Pledge for Nature to reverse biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation in part because biodiversity loss is exacerbating climate change by debilitating nature’s ability to sequester or store carbon. Hope to strengthen the same at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

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Managing and restoring biodiversity can help both mitigation and adaptation to climate change. We need to address biodiversity loss and climate change as dual challenges as they are inextricably linked. Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss, and protecting, conserving and restoring biodiversity is crucial to addressing climate change.

Plants and trees return CO2 to the atmosphere when they die and decay. But biomass burial and biochar are some new technologies which can lock and store carbon permanently into the soil. But seeing the urgency of the climate crisis, we need to be proactive and test and scale up these natural carbon removal approaches. Therefore, if we don’t take care of our mother nature right now to fight back the climate crisis, then  the planet may start to work against us.

 

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Tags:

climate changeecosystemenvironmentnatureCO2 emissions

Naorem Munal Meitei

Naorem Munal Meitei

Environmentalist. May reach the author at nmunall@yahoo.in

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