The invention of the internal combustion engine, along with the industrial revolution delivered phenomenal conveniences and prosperity to the world. Living without a car, without electricity, without all the industry produced products, is unimaginable today. Yet, its effects on the planet is devastating. Carbon that is burnt in the form of fossil fuels when we run an industry or run a car is clogging the atmosphere to an extent that is causing global warming at an unprecedented scale. This is resulting in extreme climate events like floods and droughts, causing forest fires and acidification of the oceans, causing rising sea levels because of glacial melts, which in turn is releasing methane from the permafrost melting. All very complicated consequences.
Scientists have been exploring alternatives to burning fossil fuels, as a mitigation strategy. We have seen an explosion of renewable energy options from windmills, to solar panels, to tidal and wave generators, to bio gas power plants that use waste to harvest methane as a fuel. A sense of urgency stems from the fact that we need to restrict the increase in planetary temperature to under 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels - the threshold for avoiding catastrophic effects of climate change - by 2030, to have any chance for normalcy at all.
But the challenge has been countries that are going back on their commitments made to the world in Paris at the Climate Summit. So, what do we do, without depending on governments, and finance and technology to come to the rescue. Are there any low cost options to mitigating the effects of climate change by avoiding the fossil fuel discussion? The answer is yes, thankfully!
New analysis finds conserving forests could cut carbon emissions drastically. As we all know, forests absorb the carbon that humans emit from their industries and cars. But the pace of industrialisation and cars on the roads, coupled with deforestation has resulted in a double whammy. While we look at renewable energy as one strategy, a low cost climate change option, or a 'natural climate change solution' (NCS) is afforestation, and we have the numbers to support this now. It is said that conserving forests could cut carbon as much as getting rid of every car on earth!
Report from The Nature Conservancy, WRI and others estimate that, stopping deforestation, restoring forests and improving forestry practices could cost-effectively remove 7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, or as much as eliminating 1.5 billion cars-more than all of the cars in the world today! A detailed report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, explores NCS, as the solution for an effective mitigation strategy.
The study says that forests are key to at least six of the study's 20 NCS's, which could collectively reduce 11.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That's as much as halting global oil consumption, and would get us one-third of the way toward limiting global warming to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
According to the study, 42 percent of the total emissions reductions that could be achieved from reforestation depend on reducing pasture land, including by reforesting all grazing land in forested ecoregions. This scenario may be difficult to fully realize given the growing demand for food, including a projected 95 percent increase in beef demand between 2006 and 2050. Instead, we will need to find ways to increase productivity on pasture lands to concentrate food production on a smaller amount of land and free up land for restoration. Brazil, for example, aims to restore 54 million acres of land by 2030, including boosting productivity on 12 million acres of degraded pasture land by 2020.
It is now imperative that we increase awareness for implementation of natural climate solutions. We need to collectively raise the awareness of governments, private sector and civil society to ensure that these low cost solutions are deployed in a concerted manner and on a larger scale. So, if you want to contribute to the climate change movement, then dump your car for an electric car. If the electric cars are too expensive like they are in India, then plant a tree, plant a 100 trees, as it is fun to ride a tree and cut down the cars!...