Can Plants Cool the Planet?
Following Obama’s new call for action to keep the climate from warming, Thomas Lovejoy lays out the rather dire case to abandon the goal of limiting warming to less than 2ºC in this opinion piece in the NY Times. Lovejoy repeats the disappointment scientists and others have with the political stalemate at Rio +20, following on a series of failed climate summits.
“the last time the planet was 2 degrees warmer, the oceans were four to six (perhaps eight) meters higher. We may not know how fast that will happen (although it is already occurring more rapidly than initially estimated), but the end point in sea-level rise is not in question. A major portion of humanity lives in coastal areas and small island states that will go under water. The site of the Earth Summit and Rio+20 will disappear under water fairly early on.”
But he points to other, more promising work… “This week…, international negotiators will design the biodiversity and ecosystem equivalent to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Part of the solution to the over-dosing of the planet with carbon is to harvest the carbon appetite of biological systems to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Reforestation, protection of existing vegetation through logging restrictions, wetland protection and even planting trees in cities could absorb enough carbon to effectively reduce future warming by 0.5ºC while providing benefits such as groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat and cleaner air and water.
Locally, Metro, the regional government of Portland, Oregon has referred a ballot measure to fund 5 years of land restoration on the 16,000 acres of natural areas it manages and to create a $750,000 annual grant program, Nature in Neighborhoods, to support grassroots restoration efforts like Friends of Trees‘ partnership with ODOT and Metro to plant a linear forest along Interstate 205 in the urban area.
“The Northwest Biocarbon Initiative is focused on demonstrating the essential role that natural systems can play in reducing CO₂ levels in the atmosphere to ensure long-term climate stability.”