How nature saves us from climate change

    22 Jun 2021

    Climate change causes or exacerbates various natural disasters: droughts, floods, fires. They threaten our lives, our health, our homes, and cause great economic damage to the entire country. It may seem that nature is trying to take revenge on us, but in reality, it can be a great helper in the fight against climate change.

    How to make friends with the environment and adapt to the effects of climate change with the help of nature, we tell, thanks to the material of the Ecoaction NGO.

    The University of Notre Dame analyzed the vulnerability of countries to climate change and their readiness to adapt to climate change. Adaptation is the adaptation to existing or expected risks posed by climate change.

    It is possible to adapt with the help of technical solutions: for example, to build sea walls to protect areas from flooding, to develop energy efficiency of buildings, to paint street surfaces in light colors to reduce their heating. In some areas, such as energy, industry, and transport, it is possible to use only technical solutions for adaptation.

    However, there are also nature-based solutions (NBS) that help combat climate change through the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of natural ecosystems. These are, for example, the creation of forest belts (especially in the steppe zone of Eastern Europe), the restoration of swamps or rivers, landscaping of cities, collecting rainwater, crop rotation in agriculture. In such areas as agriculture and forestry, water resources, public health, and coastal areas, priority should be given to NBS.

    Adaptation to climate change will not be effective if measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not implemented in parallel, which will mitigate the effects of climate change. NBS play an important role in this aspect as well, as they help ecosystems to absorb and retain CO2 in plants and soils.

    Avoiding deforestation and reforestation can provide up to a third of the effort needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to keep the average global temperature rise within 1.5-2 ° C.

    Advantages of nature-oriented solutions

    According to the World Commission on Adaptation, the following types of benefits can be distinguished from nature-oriented solutions: economic – reduction of losses from natural disasters, social and environmental. Examples of social and environmental benefits of NBS are improving air quality and soil fertility, increasing biodiversity. And from an economic point of view, NBS is usually a cheaper solution than technical solutions.

    Some benefits may be longer-lasting or not immediately noticeable. If we talk about green areas, the first benefit that immediately comes to mind is the coolness and shading during the heat. In cities, this is especially true, because due to dense buildings and artificial surfaces, the heat is especially strong in summer (when it comes to Europe).

    But in fact, green areas have many other benefits. They reduce air pollution. A less noticeable but important advantage of green areas is the increase in the tourist attractiveness of the settlement, the development of biodiversity, and the improvement of people’s physical and mental health.

    German researchers have confirmed a link between the presence of trees near homes and mental health. They also found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people who saw trees and green areas outside their windows reported lower levels of anxiety and depression.

    Climate change is not only about raising global temperatures, but also about making natural disasters stronger and more unpredictable. NBS play an important role in protecting communities from natural disasters: floods, storms, extreme heat – and it saves countries billions of dollars every year. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, coastal wetlands prevented $625 million in property damage and damage.

    Some consequences of climate change can be solved by NBS. For example, coastal areas should restore local ecosystems, create barrier islands or green dams. This will protect against sea-level rise, storms, and coastal erosion. And the benefits are the reduction of flooding, the development of biodiversity, and the strengthening of the coast.

    NBS also create economic opportunities for communities. In January 2021, WWF issued a report calling on the authorities to study the potential of environmentally friendly solutions and integrate them into plans to combat the effects of COVID-19. NDS make it possible to quickly create jobs that do not harm the environment and promote the development of a “green” economy. A new analysis from Vivid Economics and Climate & Sustainability states that around €140,000 will be created through €3.7 billion in NBS investments in four countries alone – Bulgaria, France, Italy, and Poland.

    The world experience

    In 2021, the EU presented an updated strategy for adaptation to climate change. In it, an important role is given to NOS. There are also many local examples of implementing environmentally friendly solutions in Europe. This can be the restoration of rivers, wetlands, or the development of green spaces in cities. The first peatland restoration project was recently completed in Wales. Its idea is to restore 1,200 hectares of land for the primary retention of carbon in peatlands, but also to create additional opportunities for the local community. It is projected that this will help develop biodiversity, improve water quality and develop local businesses.

    In the south of France, Montpellier uses NBS in agriculture. Rising air temperatures and more frequent droughts make Montpellier agriculture vulnerable to climate change. To solve the problem, a mixture of crops and trees was planted, which will provide shade for the plants and protect the crops from the heat. And by growing different crops, farmers will be able to diversify their products, increase profits and improve soil and water quality.In May 2020, New Zealand announced a program under which the state plans to invest $1.1 billion to create 11,000 jobs in regional environmental projects, develop biodiversity, restore wetlands, riverbanks and improve tourism services.

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