Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Natural Fix?: The Role of Ecosystems in Climate Mitigation

The title of this post is also the title of a new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The bottom line = The ability of the Earth's living systems to store carbon could play a vital role in the mitigation of climate change. The report, a PDF of which can be downloaded from here, suggests that safeguarding and restoring carbon in ecosystems has the potential to prevent huge amounts of carbon entering the atmosphere - some estimates say well over 50 gigatonnes (Gt).

The three priority ecosystems for carbon conservation and management are forests, peatlands and agriculture. For example, reducing deforestation rates by 50 per cent by 2050 could avoid the release of up to 50 Gt of carbon this century. Emissions from deforestation are equivalent to about 15 per cent of the total global anthropogenic carbon emissions. Similarly, the draining of peatland for agricultural land and other land uses emits up to 0.8 Gt of carbon a year. And in agriculture, if best management practices were adopted it could save up to 6 Gt of CO2 equivalent per year by 2030.

The report suggests that the management of carbon storage and uptake is achievable if the right policy framework is in place. It suggests we need to change our perception of the natural world from an offset mechanism, though the authors do note that there is some uncertainty about the amounts of carbon that can be sequestered and that all stores could eventually reach saturation.

See the report here. As I've reported before, we have to start finding solutions to climate change.

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