Policy ForumClimate Change

Natural climate solutions are not enough

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Science  01 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6430, pp. 933-934
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw2741

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Stabilizing Earth's climate and limiting temperature increase to well below 2°C per the Paris Agreement requires a dramatic uptick in the rate of progress on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Natural climate solutions (NCS) can be a substantial contributor, while also providing valuable cobenefits for people and ecosystems. Although analyses of NCS have some differences in the GHG fluxes they consider, all include emissions sources (such as deforestation, land-use change, and agricultural practices), emissions sinks (such as reforestation and restoring degraded lands), and non–carbon dioxide (CO2) agricultural emissions (such as methane from livestock). Some of us have contributed to among the most optimistic assessments of the potential of NCS (1), whereas others have been more pessimistic (2, 3). But one thing on which we agree, and which technical literature generally acknowledges, is that the benefits of NCS do not decrease the imperative for mitigation from the energy and industrial sectors (2, 4, 5). Yet this point sometimes gets lost in public-facing conversations [for example, are forests “our best weapon for fighting carbon emissions” or, more realistically, just one “piece of the puzzle”? (6)]. Strategies for incorporating NCS with energy and industrial mitigation in the climate portfolio should not be “either/or” but “yes, and.”