Most articles on Climate Change paint a dim future for the Earth and its inhabitants. The worst take into account a “business as usual” approach in which we continue to add huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere along with continuing our destruction of forest ecosystems around the world. The least negative looks at a complete reduction of CO2 releases to a point of carbon neutrality. The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change release stated that we need to reach close to this goal within 12 years to avoid irreversible change. It looks as though we better start now, but even if we stopped all CO2 from entering the atmosphere today, we would still have lasting effects due to the CO2 and other GHG’s already in the atmosphere and the heat already present. What this means is that we have to work on two fronts to meet the challenges of climate change. One is mitigation, reducing the Greenhouse Gases we emit into the atmosphere and removing what is already there. The other is adaptation, learning how to live in a changing world. Both are very complex issues.
Mitigation: Ending the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible as much as possible has to be primary goal. But it is not just in the energy and transportation sectors. This also includes farming and food. “Regenerative Agriculture” refers to farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improved water infiltration and storage in soils. Regenerative practices include:
• Reduction/elimination of tillage and use of synthetic chemicals.
• The use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures.
• Integrating animals with perennial and annual plants to create a biologically diverse ecosystem on the farm.
• Grazing and pasturing animals on grass, and more specifically using a planned multi-paddock rotation system.
• Raising animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat.
It requires rethinking our diets and our love of meat- based meals and moving towards a more plant-based diet.
At the same time, we have to replant our forests. This will absorb much of the CO2 already in the atmosphere. We are presently working on “artificial trees”. Technologies that will act like trees in that they remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it safely.
We have to curtail the use and release of other GHG’s as well, including methane as described in regenerative agriculture practices as well as other GHG’s created from manufacturing and other industrial practices.
Adaptation: This refers to living with the changes that are already in place and planning for the changes to come. One of the biggest and most often talked about changes Is sea level rise. This is already affecting countless cities and island nations around the world. Many cities have already started the process of adapting to these changes. Cities like New York, London, Miami and Tokyo have been working long and hard on solutions to what could be a huge catastrophe otherwise. This includes maintaining a fresh water supply, another problem that may come with sea level rise.
We will also have to think about food security here and around the world. Planning for future agricultural demands is an extremely important and immediate task. What is a breadbasket now may be a desert in 30 years.
Planning for new and spreading diseases is another area of concern. Insects are able to inhabit new areas around the world and some bring new diseases with them.
All of these and many more are the things we will have to look at closely in the coming years and decades. Research and planning takes time and time is something we are reminded we do not have much of. We have the minds and the technologies to do these things. We need the will to do so.
This is the final article in this series on climate change. We hope we have given you something to think about. This is one of those problems that does not show up on a daily basis. It is not something that is in the media very often. It is something that if we ignore it for too long it will jump up and bite us hard. July has been the hottest July on record for the entire Earth. The Amazon rainforest is on fire more than usual. Greenland ice is melting at increasingly greater rates. Our Earth, our only home, is telling us it is time.