When we talk about climate change, we too often are focused exclusively on energy and industry emissions. While that is an important conversation, we cannot afford to miss the forest for the trees by ignoring the potential of natural climate solutions.
Natural climate solutions, also known as nature-based solutions, are practices through which we harness the carbon capture potential of natural organisms and ecosystems. The National Academy of Sciences predicts that 37% of emissions reductions needed by 2030 can be accomplished through natural climate solutions. Not only can these practices be put into action right now, but their impact is also significant.
There are three broad categories of natural climate solutions: green carbon, blue carbon, and agriculture. Green carbon refers to land-based ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, and swamps, while blue carbon refers to coastal and oceanic ecosystems. Agriculture, of course, refers to farming and ranching practices that sequester carbon.
Importantly, natural solutions provide both climate mitigation and adaptation benefits. Climate mitigation means reducing carbon emissions to stop climate change in its tracks, while climate adaptation is making adjustments to better live with the effects of climate change our world is already experiencing. As a simple example, a tree sequesters approximately a ton of carbon over its lifetime, which is climate mitigation, but it also provides shade against warmer temperatures, which is climate adaptation.
This is why my organization has launched a fall campaign focused on increasing public awareness of natural climate solutions. Because these solutions are so often practiced by everyday Americans on the frontlines of climate change, we have dubbed this campaign “Rooted in America.” Natural climate solutions are rooted in science, facts, and action.
In addition to educational materials and organic social media engagement with the hashtag #RootedinAmerica, we are also running digital advertising, engaging with media through op-eds and interviews, and hosting local action events with our branches. After our activists learn more about the benefits of natural climate solutions, they can put that knowledge to work by helping at a sustainable farm, planting trees, or helping to restore coastal ecosystems. Already, our branches in places like Des Moines, Denver, and Houston have hosted natural climate solutions events.
Our hope with this campaign is that more Americans will learn about the potential of nature in our fight against climate change and understand that local action really can have an impact in protecting our environment. Often, the climate conversation is framed entirely within the scope of government action, and it is important that we instead make environmental protection personal. Every community across the country is experiencing the effects of climate change, and you will be hard-pressed to find someone who does not want to take care of his or her backyard. When we make climate change local, we can also make meaningful climate action local—and that is Rooted in America.
Christopher Barnard is the national policy director at the American Conservation Coalition (ACC). Rooted in America is a 501(c)(3) campaign conducted by ACC’s sister organization, The Conservation Coalition.