TO SAVE THE CLIMATE WE MUST ALSO SAVE BIODIVERSITY
Nearly every ecosystem, tree, and animal helps produce
Earth’s climate. And right now, the extinction crisis
exacerbates the climate crisis. Protecting and restoring
nature is the biggest step we can take toward stabilizing
the climate emergency.
Climate change is commonly understood to be one of the drivers of extinction, affecting biodiversity in nearly every corner of the planet. But few realize that the loss of biodiversity is also exacerbating climate change, and shifting global weather patterns. Discover more about the relationship between wild nature and climate change in the paragraphs below.
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WHY DOES BIODIVERSITY MATTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
Biodiversity is the sum total of life on Earth. It includes every individual living being, from the tiniest mosses to the largest whales, and the resulting benefits produced by this web of life.
Earth’s climate patterns are, in part, a direct consequence of its biodiversity. We can observe these relational patterns across numerous regions in the world, and some of the most significant include:
- 70% of the rainfall in southern South America results from weather patterns created by the Amazon rainforest
- The boreal forests in Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia are Earth’s largest above-ground carbon sequestration system, storing enough carbon to catastrophically change Earth’s climate if released by deforestation.
- Peatlands are the best terrestrial below-ground carbon storage system. They currently cover 3% of Earth’s surface.
- Ocean life, from seaweed to plankton to the fish that act as natural “gardeners” of marine flora, is Earth’s most important carbon storage area.
Because of the interrelationship between life – plant life and the animals that make maintain the essential balance in natural ecosystems – and the climate, every time we harm Earth’s biodiversity, we destroy a living component that helps regulate the weather and atmospheric carbon. The imminent threat of climate change isn’t just a threat to biodiversity, but also a direct consequence of mass extinction.
HOW CAN WE USE BIODIVERSITY TO HELP FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE?
Protecting Earth’s remaining biodiversity and restoring at least one-third of what has been lost in the last 30 years, is the most efficient and cost-effective step we can take to stabilize the climate emergency. Unlike technological and engineered solutions that are expensive and must be scaled-up in order to be effective, wild nature is already in place and working for free (as it has done for 500 million years) to produce everything life needs most to survive.
But we must act fast to leverage nature’s planetary healing power.
Since the 1970s, contemporary scientists have observed that when, on average, more than half of an ecosystem is destroyed, the benefits produced from that ecosystem decline precipitously. (Traditional and Indigenous Peoples have observed this effect for centuries.) Those benefits can include anything from oxygen production to water filtration to rainfall production to carbon storage. And some fragile ecosystems, like rainforests, require far more than 50% to maintain functionality.
In the last two decades, scientists have concluded that the need to preserve at least half doesn’t just apply to individual landscapes, but actually is required across the entire planet.
In order to keep Earth’s natural life-support system in place, including its benefits for weather and climate, we must keep at least half of Earth’s land and seas wild – free from industrial infrastructure.
But we are on the cusp of losing all of nature’s many benefits. Right now, barely half of Earth’s landscape remains intact, and many of those that are still partially wild are losing ground every day. In the United States alone, we lose a football field of nature every 30 seconds.
The clock is truly ticking, and the survival of our civilization is at stake.
That is why we must protect what remains and begin the restoration of wild areas at an ambitious and unprecedented scale. In fact, should we restore just 30% of what has been lost in the last 30 years, we can achieve at least 37% of the carbon storage required to keep the climate emergency in check.
Just think of what we could do if we restored more?
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
The biggest driver of the mass extinction that accelerates climate change is the legal destruction of wildlands for industrial extraction and infrastructure projects.
We must protect and restore wild nature in every country, region, and community. This means mobilizing private individuals to take action in their neighborhoods and cities as well as influencing elected leaders to do a better job at protecting public lands and expanding those protections to include critically important areas threatened by the imminent potential for destruction.
You can start by joining WILD’s global Survival Revolution. In the next decade, world leaders will convene multiple times to decide on how much nature people need to survive. The science is clear – we need half – but not all leaders are empowered to act on the science. Your voice, united with the voices of millions of others, is an essential part of solving the climate and extinction emergencies. We need you to let others know how much wild nature we need to secure the future of life on Earth.
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