Could nature be our best protection against the climate crisis?



There can be no doubt that the climate crisis is here, right now. In parts of northwestern India and Pakistan, temperatures have recently reached a record 51C during global warming. 100 times more likely due to the climate crisis. As a result, hospital admissions for heat-related incidents increased by a staggering 20 percent.

In parts of Bangladesh, human-induced climate change is leading to floods that have caused severe food shortages. Many communities were completely submerged, leaving many dead and more than two million blocked. The United Nations says that more than 1.5 million children in the country is at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition due to the floods.

In Australia, wildfires in 2020 have killed or displaced nearly three billion animals. Over the past three years, the country has also been hit by drought, cyclones and strange tides, which in turn have caused climate change. essential care for citizens.

These are just a few examples of a critical trend. Over the past 20 years, natural disasters linked to the climate crisis have increased by 40 percent. A sudden onset, climate-related disasters, such as droughts and floods, have killed about 410,000 people in the last decade, and nine out of 10 of the people those who lost their lives because of such dangers were in the developing world.

How research from the Stockholm Media Institute neatly summarized before Stockholm + 50, which celebrates 50 years since the first global conference on the environment took place in the Swedish capital, the world is boiling. And with global greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise and reaching record levels in the atmosphere, the frequency and severity of climate-related disasters will only get worse.

Fortunately, we can do much to build resilience between vulnerable communities at the forefront of the climate crisis, and new report of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) describe how, highlighting the often overlooked, yet transformative power of nature-based solutions.

Nature-based solutions involve protecting, sustainably managing and restoring ecosystems to address social challenges such as climate change, while accelerating human well-being and biodiversity. The report predicts that these solutions could reduce the intensity of climate and weather-related hazards by 26 percent, in a world where more than three billion people live in places that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

Our research shows how nature-based solutions can save lives, reducing the likelihood of climate and weather-related disasters occurring. Where communities are exposed to the dangers of the climate crisis, for example, such solutions include health-related floodwaters that can reduce flood risk; reforestation, which can help prevent landslides; or restoration of mangroves and coral reefs that can protect against storms. Nature-based solutions can also capture and store carbon, and provide food, livelihoods and critical habitats. They can improve the water safety of communities and contribute to better human health.

Promisingly, the analysis shows that nature-based solutions can also provide developing countries with massive economic savings – at least $ 104 billion (about £ 83 billion) by 2030, and $ 393 billion (£ 314 billion) by 2050.

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There are countless examples of countries that have already seen the benefits of nature-based solutions. One is Jamaica, where coral reefs are an important natural defense for the country’s coastline, protecting coastal communities and tourist hotels from the destructive force of tropical storms. Coral reefs can reduce wave energy by an estimated 75 percent, reducing the risk of coastal erosion and flooding during storms. Fringes, patches and barriers, meanwhile, protect about 60 percent of Jamaica’s coastline.

Of course, any disaster risk reduction or adaptation will be obsolete unless the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly and drastically reduced. Continued warming will simply overwhelm vulnerable communities, hampering their ability to reduce disaster risk and adaptation, and reducing the effectiveness of nature-based solutions.

The evidence of the interdependence between climate change and nature loss is overwhelming and we have a rapidly closing window in which to act. All of us – governments, businesses, investors and consumers – need to work together to be carbon neutral and nature-positive future.

Marco Lambertini is the director general of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Jagan Chapagain is the secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

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