Natural solutions to climate change
Humanity must keep atmospheric warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius if we are going to avoid climate chaos. This means we must work fast to reduce the global use of fossil fuels and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
While there is growing interest in new technologies to capture and store carbon, the most effective way to remove carbon dioxide from the air is through photosynthesis. Plants draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lock carbon in their bodies, using it to grow. They also fix carbon in the soil during their lives and when they die and decompose.
Animals are also key actors in the carbon cycle, especially large herbivores like elephants and marine animals such as whales. They consume huge quantities of carbon as they eat and deposit carbon to the seafloor or soil.
Researchers estimate that nature-based solutions, such as biodiversity conservation, reforestation, and ecological farming, can deliver at least one third of the carbon removal that is needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. It’s clear that conserving and expanding nature’s precious biodiversity and protecting the keystone species that play critical roles in keeping ecosystems healthy are vital solutions to climate change that must be scaled up rapidly.
That’s why at IFAW, we integrate nature-based solutions to climate change into our wildlife conservation work. By protecting and restoring biodiverse landscapes and the animals that live in them, we are protecting and expanding important carbon sinks. By linking and effectively managing animal habitats and by protecting animals from harm, we ensure that each individual animal is safe and can deliver its essential ecosystem functions.
Beyond saving biodiversity and storing carbon, nature-based solutions to climate change offer myriad benefits to people. Critically, they can be harnessed to help communities adapt to their new climatic conditions and become resilient to the challenges posed by the changing environment.
We at IFAW acknowledge that effective wildlife conservation depends upon the people who live alongside wild animals. In our experience, conservation works best when communities not only benefit economically from conservation initiatives, but when they are included in the implementation and leadership of these initiatives.
We work in partnership with local communities, supporting them to gain the knowledge, resources, and power they need to have their voices heard and benefit from activities on their land. We also support communities to implement climate adaptation and environmental management projects, adopt climate-smart and ecologically appropriate agricultural techniques, work in climate-resilient jobs, and start climate-resilient businesses.
By helping communities adapt, we also help them to move away from economic activities that have negative impacts on biodiversity and wildlife, such as tree cutting, charcoal burning, and poaching. And we help them to avoid conflict with wildlife by creating farms and villages that are secure from wildlife incursions.