It is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. However, letting nature take care of removing CO2 from the air could save us time and money in developing artificial methods to capture carbon.
Read more: George Monbiot Q&A – How rejuvenating nature could help fight climate change.
Returning many of the world’s ecosystems to something resembling their former glory could also help solve another crisis simultaneously. In this fourth issue of the Imagine newsletter, we look at the mass extinction crisis that threatens the nearly nine million species on Earth and how radical action to prevent their extinction could also prevent ours.
Experts were asked to imagine how they could begin to tackle climate change at home and what the future might be like with more wildness in our lives. It’s all about saving two birds by planting a tree.
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Imagine is The Conversation’s newsletter that presents a vision for a world where climate change will be addressed. It draws on the collective wisdom from academics across fields, including anthropology, zoology, technology, and psychology.
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A wilder world is a cooler world.
Nearly one million species face extinction if ” transformational changes” are not made to the way economies and societies are organized in the 21st Century. A report by an international team studying Earth’s biodiversity was published in May 2019.
Read more: ‘Revolutionary change’ needed to stop unprecedented global extinction crisis
Climate change drives species to extinction and exacerbates threats, such as habitat loss , by destroying the habitats themselves or changing the conditions that make them hospitable to different species.
You might be surprised to find out that nature has already returned to vast areas of the globe where humans once destroyed dense habitats. Your local environment may be more wild than 100 years ago.
You’re almost certain to live in continental Europe.
Read more: Rewilding: as farmland and villages are abandoned, forests, wolves and bears are returning to Europe
More and more people around the world are abandoning rural landscapes and moving to live in cities . In their absence, the land they once used for agriculture is regenerating as shrubland and forest. These new habitats have ushered in wolves, brown bears, lynx and boar . José M. Rey Benayas, Professor of Ecology at the University of Alcalá, says:
Forests returned to the earth at a rate of 2.2 million hectares every year from 2010-2015, despite 40% of world land being permanently cultivated by domestic herbivores. Spain has tripled the size of its forests since 1900, going from 8% to 25 %. From 2000 to 2015, the country added 96,000 hectares per year of forest.
The UK has recovered from World War I more slowly. Forests have increased from 5% to 13% of land area today. Every hectare of restored forest in the UK can absorb the emissions of 90 cars or 30 London buses every year. Just 18% of UK land could be restored to forest, which would absorb one quarter of carbon emissions that need to be reduced to reach net zero emission by 2050.
Read more: Rewilding is essential to the UK’s commitment to zero carbon emissions
Aside from not emitting carbon in the first place, restoring forests across the world on an unprecedented scale could be our best bet for avoiding catastrophic climate change, according to a new study . Mark Maslin, a Professor of Earth System Science, and Simon Lewis, a Professor of Global Change, both at University College London, explain the thinking.