Protecting Natural Carbon Sinks to Draw Down CO2 Levels
The IPCC has warned that deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will not be enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C. All modeled pathways project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) to compensate for residual emissions and for delays in implementing emissions reductions. The IPCC found that it is feasible to draw down excess atmospheric carbon dioxide without recourse to experimental carbon capture and sequestration technologies by relying entirely on protected natural ecosystems, primarily forests, in combination with steeper emissions reductions.28 In addition, the IPCC noted that conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems and soil carbon sequestration, if done properly, could provide essential co-benefits such as improved biodiversity, soil quality, and local food security. A 2021 publication by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) entitled Making Peace with Nature makes clear that humanity’s war on nature has left the planet broken and that properly valuing nature and understanding that its destruction is driving our current crisis is imperative to combating climate change.
The U.S. is blessed with myriad carbon-rich, biodiverse ecosystems which span the breadth of our country including forests, peatlands, prairie, wetlands (forested and non-forested),
freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems. In addition to storing and sequestering carbon,
these ecosystems provide habitat for native plants and animals, serve as nurseries and shelter for many aquatic organisms and foster the growth of microorganisms essential to ecosystem function. In addition, intact ecosystems provide some of the best protections to our communities from the impacts of climate change, including sea surge, flooding and wildfires, to name a few. Unfortunately, most of these ecosystems have been overwhelmingly valued for the commodities that they can provide. Extractive industries, with the support of government agencies and subsidies, have logged, mined, and drained our environment for their natural resources such as wood products, rare earth minerals, and development purposes. The result has been the exploitation, degradation and destruction of the very ecosystems that help maintain a habitable planet. As we move forward in the face of the climate crisis, a reimagining of our priorities and our relationship with native ecosystems is therefore warranted. The Precautionary Principle, which states "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically," should govern all of our actions with regard to our environment.
VISION FOR EQUITABLE CLIMATE ACTION
The Vision for Equitable Climate Action (VECA) is a roadmap to prevent the worst of global warming. Acting equitably and ambitiously to reduce greenhouse gases to zero by 2050.