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Restoring Wildlife Populations Could Help Us Reach 95% of Our Climate Goals

Source: Unsplash - Nam Anh

A recent scientific study highlights the hugely critical role of wild animal populations in mitigating climate change, demonstrating that restoring these populations can get 95% of the way to the global target of extracting 500 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere.

Restoring Wild Animal Populations: A Key Climate Solution

A recent scientific study has revealed that restoring the world’s wild animal populations can help remove up to 95% of the 500 gigatons of carbon that needs to be extracted from the atmosphere to meet the 1.5-degree target on top of decarbonizing existing emissions. This is an essential discovery that highlights the need to allocate more funding and attention to nature-climate solutions.

Source: Photo by Danielle Barnes/Unsplash

The Role of Wild Animals in Climate Solutions

Various wild animal species such as whales, wolves, bison, forest elephants, orangutans, and beavers are the original climate engineers, and their contribution to climate solutions cannot be underestimated. The restoration of these species can help address the challenges posed by climate change. The study provides evidence that these strategies have already been deployed and studied on a vast scale.

Examples of Restoring Wild Animal Populations for Climate Solutions

The study cites examples such as the restoration of wildebeest populations in the Serengeti. Around 1900, rinderpest disease from domestic cattle decimated the Serengeti’s wildebeest population, which created fuel for massive fires, releasing large quantities of soil carbon into the air and transforming the Serengeti from a carbon sink into a source. Restoring wildebeest populations allowed the soil to absorb carbon once again.

Rewilding the “yedoma” circum-Arctic region with musk oxen, bison, and wild horses can turn taiga and tundra back into grasslands, locking up the enormous methane deposits that lie underneath. Forest elephants in Africa disperse seeds from mature trees and trample understory, allowing big trees to grow bigger.

Source: Photo by Lucas Ludwig/Unsplash

Restoring Marine Ecosystems: A Major Key to Climate Solutions

According to the study, the greatest potential for restoring wild animal populations to mitigate climate change may be in restoring marine ecosystems by increasing the biomass of fish populations. Fish can transfer carbon from the upper ocean into the seafloor by pooping and other natural processes.

Source: Photo by Francesco Ungaro/Unsplash

Implications of the Study

The implications of this study are far-reaching and highlight the need for immediate action. The study suggests that we need to see wild animals as the climate solutions they are and fully include them in the nature-climate agenda. We need to scale funding for nature and wildlife by at least 10X and ensure that companies account for wildlife impacts when making climate claims. Triple down on 30 X 30 conservation goals and ensure their achievement through the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems. We also need to give fisheries management the priority it deserves as a top-tier climate solution.

Making Animals the Center of the Climate Debate

Putting animals at the center of the climate debate can be a powerful political tool to galvanize action. Energy is critical, but it can devolve into esoteric discussions of grid response that are inaccessible to most people. Rewilding animals is a simple, powerful, and engaging solution, and it’s time to act.

The study underscores the importance of restoring wild animal populations to mitigate climate change. It provides concrete evidence that we need to view wild animals as climate solutions and allocate more funding and attention to nature-climate solutions. We have the power to act and ensure that we protect and restore natural ecosystems for a better future.

If you’d like to read more about animals helping to catch carbon from the atmosphere, read this article regarding whales!

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