The Value of Biosphere Earth, pt. 7: Carbon

Map shown: Global priority areas for ecosystem restoration (2020).

How much carbon can our life-support system consume? And, can it consume it fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change?

The answers are: “more than enough,” and “yes.” Here is a two-slide synopsis of this week’s science:

Graphic 1: The Glasgow Forests Declaration commits 137 countries to reducing emissions 7.45 GtCO2e, per year, by 2030.
Graphic 2: This 2020 study shows up to 631.8 GtCO2e could be absorbed before end of this century by saving +70% of most threatened species. The total goal is 730 GtCO2e.
Graphic 3: This study emphasizes the power of allowing deforested areas to naturally regrow.
Graphic 4: This study shows up to 29.77 GtCO2e could be reduced by 2030, per year, by making cost effective improvements to the way we produce and eat beef and crops.
  • Graphic 1: “The Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests.” If carried out as it was committed to at COP26, November 2021, The Glasgow Declaration on Forests would reduce global greenhouse emissions by up to 7.45 Gt CO2 per year by 2030.[v] If -28 Gt CO2e/year is our goal, then the Glasgow accord’s successful enactment achieves 26.6% of that goal.
  • Graphic 2: The study, “Global Priority Areas for Ecosystem Restoration,” highlights highest priority lands for rapid carbon absorption and greatest biodiversity protection at lowest cost. This study includes roughly similar geography to the Glasgow accord and shows that protecting and restoring the most biodiverse and carbon-rich land ecosystems would avoid and absorb up to 418.5 Gt CO2e this century if current lands are protected and 30% of most degraded lands are restored, 631.8 Gt CO2e if 45% of such lands are restored, while saving more than 70% of today’s most threatened species from extinction.[vi]
  • Graphic 3: “Global Natural Forest Regrowth” covers a larger area for forest restoration and shows that just allowing trees to grow back naturally on today’s deforested lands has the potential to remove up to 23% of annual emissions, roughly 8.9 Gt CO2e per year.[vii]
  • Graphic 4: “Contribution of Lands to a 1.5C World” shows up to 29.77 Gt CO2e removals per year through better quality livestock feed, rice cultivation, soil carbon sequestration, and reduced food waste and meat consumption.[viii] The first three studies noted here overlap in various ways and thus do not tally. Instead, they reenforce the viability of land-based, carbon emissions reduction when prioritizing high productivity / high biodiversity ecosystems. The -37 GtCO2e per year by 2030 tally shown as the headline graphic at the top of this brief sums the Glasgow Declaration’s potential with that of the agricultural and dietary change aspects identified in the fourth study, “Contribution of Lands to a 1.5C World.”
  • Notably: phytoplankton restoration, fisheries restoration, agricultural intensification, rewilding large mammal ranges, composting at municipal scale to strengthen soil vitality and resilience, urban integration of permaculture-based food production, urban integration of forests, green infrastructure and wildlife corridors, and ocean farming that harvests seaweed as a primary nutrient for livestock and soils.
Signatory countries for the Glasgow Forests Declaration (2021).
Global Ecosystem Restoration Priorities (2020).
Natural forest regrowth potential (2020).
Irrecoverable carbon (2021).
Areas of global importance for biodiversity, carbon & water (2021)

Thanks for reading.

This piece was updated on 12/9/21 and 12/28/21.
Contact me anytime with questions.

Scientific Citations

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Read about the math in this essay.

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