054 | Give Us Ecotopia or Give Us Death

51 minutes

Developing countries are the most vulnerable to – and least responsible for – climate change, but new research shows that some of them can dramatically boost their economies by managing their forests, farms, and fields in ways that pull greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.

 

At a carbon price of $50 for every metric ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere, for example, Costa Rica can go beyond net-zero and end up pulling four times as much greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere as its entire economy emits right now. At that same carbon price, the Central African Republic can use NCS strategies to boost its GDP a staggering 90 percent.

Different Countries; Different Scenarios

Authored by scientists from 17 organizations, the new paper looks at 12 natural climate solutions across 79 tropical countries and identifies activities that can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6.6 billion metric tons per year – ore more than all of the emissions generated by the United States – at a price of $50 per ton or lower.

“We found a wide variance among countries in the types of interventions that can deliver results,” said lead author Bronson Griscom, Senior Director of Natural Climate Solutions for Conservation International. “The Solomon Islands, for example, can make tremendous gains by managing their production forests more effectively, while Kenya can make tremendous gains by doing the same with agriculture.”

The paper comes at a critical moment in human development, with humankind now actively managing more than half of Earth’s ice-free land.

“The human footprint is expanding, and the population is still growing, but the rate of population growth is declining,” says Griscom on an episode of the Bionic Planet podcast scheduled to drop on January 28. “Meanwhile, our technology – our practices for agriculture – are continuing to improve so that we can produce more food per hectare from one decade to the next.”

We have, he says, the know-how to feed the world and reduce our footprint at the same time, but it comes as climate change threatens to decimate the world’s living ecosystems.

“This is hundreds of years in the making, and we’re at this inflection point now,” he says. “Ecotopia is out there, but so is climate change with all its potential tipping points in ecosystems and looming mass migration due to societal collapse.”

It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

“We have all of these solutions in front of us, and we have this ticking clock,” he says. “We know what to do, and we have the means of doing it, but we have just a decade to do it.”

The Decades Ahead

With so many different countries and so many different economies, he sees a phased approach where some countries move now and others follow in their wake.

“Some countries have the resources and governance to move right now,” he says. “The idea is, ‘Let’s help those countries move quickly now, and let’s invest this decade in helping those other countries to prepare for major actions.'”

More episodes from Bionic Planet: Reversing Climate Change by Restoring Nature

Forests, Fires, and Jurisdictional Offsets: A Conversation with Naomi Swickard of Verra

Global greenhouse-gas emissions will drop 5.5 percent this year because of COVID-19, but they must drop 7.6 percent every year to meet the Paris Agreement's 1.5C target. Forest carbon …

057 | COVID-19 and the Value of Resilience over Efficiency

When US President Donald Trump disbanded his country's pandemic response team, he did so because "I don't like having thousands of people around when we don't need them."

That cost-cutting …

056 | How Costa Rica Grew Both its Forests and its Economy

Costa Rica says it will have zero net greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, and its electrical grid already runs on 99 percent renewable energy.

Today's guest is a key part of its success.

As …

055 | The Citizens Climate Lobby Wants to Spread the Carbon Wealth

Today's guest, Daniel Palken, volunteers with a group called the Citizens Climate Lobby, or "CCL", which aims to slash US greenhouse-gas emissions by …

53: A Marshall Plan for Forests, with Charlotte Streck of Climate Focus

There's a lot of money sloshing around forests, and most of it goes into agricultural subsidies and investments that destroy forests, while only a …

52: Natural Climate Solutions Explained (ENCORE PRESENTATION)

On the eve of year-end climate talks in Madrid, I revisit my 2017 conversation with Bronson Griscom, Director of Forest Carbon Science for the Nature Conservancy.  He headed up a team of …

How you can listen to this podcast

You can listen to episodes right here on the website, or if you prefer, in a podcast app. Listening in an app makes it easier to keep track of what you’ve already heard, listen without using your data plan and many other conveniences.

Recommended apps
Start listening to Forests, Fires, and Jurisdictional Offsets: A Conversation with Naomi Swickard of Verra
53:09
Start listening to Forests, Fires, and Jurisdictional Offsets: A Conversation with Naomi Swickard of Verra
53:09