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Natural Solutions to Climate Change

At the United Nations climate change meeting that just concluded in Bonn, Germany, global leaders reaffirmed that the world cannot respond adequately to rising temperatures if governments continue to ignore how forests, farms, and coasts are managed. Now that there is a firm consensus, governments must act on it.

OXFORD – In response to climate change, land is key. Today, agriculture, forestry, and other land uses account for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse-gas emissions. But adopting sustainable land management strategies could provide more than one-third of the near-term emission reductions needed to keep warming well below the target – 2°C above pre-industrial levels – set by the Paris climate agreement.

Conservation organizations like mine have long been working to balance the interaction between people and nature. But only recently have we fully grasped just how important land-use management is in addressing climate change. With the development of remote sensing, artificial intelligence, and biogeochemical modeling, we can better forecast outcomes, and develop strategies to manage and minimize adverse consequences.

Some of the most promising ways to mitigate climate change are what we call “natural climate solutions”: the conservation, restoration, and improved management of land, in order to increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse-gas emissions in landscapes worldwide. The full potential of these solutions is detailed in a new study produced by my organization, the Nature Conservancy, and 15 other leading institutions.

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