Even though we all may not have read the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report on climate change, we have all heard the dismal findings. Humans must act now to decrease global warming or we’ll continue to suffer through more extreme weather events — hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires, below freezing temperatures and above normal heat waves.
Reducing Fossil Fuel Usage
Advocates for change tend to focus on reducing fossil fuel consumption through the use of natural energy resources such as solar and wind. But doing so is a slow process and one not so easily achieved through change. Technology advances and policy changes will need to be implemented in order to affect a change, but every day on the news, we see how even the discussions result in more fighting and partisanship than mutual advancement.
The Case for Preserving Natural Resources
There are other natural resources, however, which may be used to affect change in a less partisan manner. They are the natural resources of native plants and natural landscapes. Thanks to their carbon sequestering and storage capabilities, forests and prairies/grasslands should be absolutely essential in mitigating climate change. And thanks to their sponge-like processes, wetlands should be absolutely essential for mitigating flooding. Natural climate solutions can help us achieve 37 percent of our climate target.
Forests and Grasslands
According to the EPA, the Average US resident emits about 20 tons of CO2 a year. Research tells us carbon absorption by American forests is more than 227.6 million tons per year, and the grasslands of the American West absorb about 190 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.
Forests store CO2 mostly in woody biomass and leaves, and grasslands sequester CO2 underground mostly in their roots and in the soil. This means when wildfires cause trees to go up in flames, the burned carbon they formerly stored is released back to the atmosphere. When fire burns grasslands, thankfully, the carbon stored underground tends to stay in the roots and soil. With our climate becoming increasingly unstable, this means grasslands will tend to be more adaptive to global warming.
Wetlands need to be included also in this discussion because of their ability to protect against flooding. Acting like a large sponge, they store snow melt and rainwater and slowly release it over time, removing the energy and pollution from the initial downfall. As we add more and more impervious surfaces and fill in more and more marshes, there is no where for the water to go so flooding occurs. By allowing our wetlands to flourish, we should reduce the impacts of drought and the impact of large surges of water.
As I end this post, I am so very grateful I am able to do my small part to affect climate change in a positive way. I know it’s not enough, but if we all do our part “to promote environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities” we’ll get there.