Nature-based carbon removal can help protect us from a warming planet
A new study finds that temporarily removing naturally occurring carbon can lower peak levels of global warming, but only if complemented by ambitious reductions in fossil fuel emissions.
Nature-based climate solutions aim to preserve and enhance carbon storage in terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems and could potentially contribute to Canada’s climate change mitigation strategy. “However, the risk is that carbon stored in ecosystems could be lost to the atmosphere through forest fires, insect outbreaks, deforestation or other human activities,” says Kirsten Zickfeld. , a distinguished professor of climate science in the Department of Climate Science at Simon Fraser University. Geography who is part of the research team.
The researchers used a global climate model to simulate temperature change through two scenarios ranging from low to ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In the relatively low emission reduction scenario, carbon emissions continue until 2100. In the ambitious scenario, carbon emissions reach net zero by 2050.
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in order to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, the world will need to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by mid-century or sooner.
In both scenarios, carbon storage by nature-based climate solutions is assumed to be temporary, as forests are vulnerable to natural and human disturbances. Therefore, nature-based climate solutions are expected to pull carbon out of the atmosphere over the next 30 years and then slowly release carbon over the second half of the century.
The team found that in a scenario where carbon emissions decline rapidly to net zero, temporary nature-based carbon storage can reduce the peak level of warming. However, in a scenario with continued carbon emissions, temporary nature-based carbon storage would only serve to delay the temperature increase.
“Our study shows that nature-based carbon storage, even if temporary, can have tangible climate benefits, but only if implemented alongside a rapid transition to zero fossil fuel emissions. “, says Zickfeld.
The findings are published in Earth & Environment Communications.
Zickfeld is also the lead author of the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report released in the summer of 2021, and the report 2018 IPCC special on global warming of 1.5 degrees.
The researchers also note that investing in nature protection and restoration provides social and environmental benefits for local and indigenous communities beyond carbon storage to mitigate climate change. They add that biodiversity, water and air quality are intrinsically valuable and that efforts to improve them can also help build community resilience in the face of climate change.