On August 9th, 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 6th report on climate change, summarizing the most up-to-date science on the impacts of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. This report serves as a dire warning to humanity should we fail to take immediate action to reduce these emissions. We are already experiencing the consequences of climate change, with record heat, wildfires, historic drought and flooding impacting nearly every part of the United States. As the IPCC report states, these climate-related disasters will only become more common as the planet continues to warm.
According to Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, “Scientists have predicted the likelihood of accelerating climate change for more than a century now – yet too often their warnings have been disregarded. My hope is that the rigor, transparency, and unprecedented urgency of this latest IPCC report will make it simply impossible to ignore.”
In order to avoid subjecting future generations to the catastrophic impacts of unabated climate change, we must pursue every mitigation strategy at our disposal. This necessarily begins with massive and sustained investment in renewable energy and carbon-free transportation. It is impossible to stop climate change without first taking action to reduce, and ultimately end, the release of immense quantities of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The U.S. Nature4Climate coalition supports efforts to decarbonize our energy and transportation sectors and eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. We also believe that America’s natural and working lands can play an important role in helping to achieve our long-term climate goals. Natural Climate Solutions are a critical compliment to economy-wide action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – not a substitute for these efforts.
The science is clear – climate-smart management of America’s public lands, as well as privately owned farms, forests and ranches, can help remove millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere. As Lucy Almond, the Chair of the Global Nature4Climate coalition states, “If we rapidly reduce emissions in line with the most ambitious IPCC pathways, natural carbon sinks and reduction of sources can do a lot to help take us the rest of the way to net zero.”
Over the past year, U.S. Nature4Climate has worked to highlight the many cross-cutting benefits of these climate-smart land management strategies. In addition to naturally removing carbon from the atmosphere, Natural Climate Solutions create jobs, enhance wildlife habitat and make our coastlines, forests, farms and cities more resilient to fire, flooding and drought. While these solutions are practical, relatively low cost, and available now, widescale adaptation will require both public and private investment in workforce development, training, technical assistance and mechanisms to incentivize action by private landowners.
My hope is that IPCC’s recent report spurs every jurisdiction, company, organization and individual to invest as much as possible in a just, equitable and comprehensive set of strategies for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Let’s get to work.
Catherine Macdonald is the North America Director of Natural Climate Solutions at The Nature Conservancy and the Chair of the USN4C Steering Committee.