Natural Climate Solutions Are Great, But Some Could Pose Unforeseen Consequences

A recent study published in the Journal of Science Advances identified a number of promising natural strategies to mitigate human influences on climate change. These strategies included things such as replanting trees on degraded lands and sequestering more carbon in farmland soils through agricultural techniques.

Trees lining a city road provide shade. Credit: mentatdgt via Pexels

Joseph E. Fargione, a scientist at the Nature Conservancy and lead author of the study, told the New York Times, “We’re not saying these strategies are a substitute for getting to zero-carbon energy; we still need to do that too.”

Fargione also alluded to how forest thinning practices could have lead to an increased risk to the wildfires that are currently raging in California. The risk could be decreased with restoration projects that bring back vegetation to the forests.

It has also been proposed that city centers reintroduce vegetation throughout their city. Some cities, like Louisville, Kentucky, have already started programs to plant trees throughout their city.

Not only does this process reduce carbon emissions, but it has also reduced heat within the city by providing shade throughout the city. Louisville has successfully planted nearly 100 thousand saplings since 2011.

However, the introduction of trees into Louisville hasn’t been as successful as once thought. William Fountain, a University of Kentucky professor of arboriculture, observed a number of empty tree wells throughout the city.

“Empty trees wells are the mark of a failed arboriculture program. We don’t know what was once planted here,” Fountain said about one of them, “but the weeds are doing fairly well.”

Introducing vegetation into cities that haven’t been designed to nurture them causes a substantial amount of issues when trying to grow and develop trees.

One other means of curbing climate change has been to trap carbon dioxide in the soil. In 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducted an assessment that found 36 regions across the country to have the proper conditions for storing between 2,400 to 3,700 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide underground.

Shovel stuck in the dirt. Credit: Lukas via Pexels

This process, known as geologic carbon sequestration, could successfully reduce the carbon air pollution that is one of the driving factors of climate change. The idea also provides a very effective untapped resource for reducing human-lead climate change. The Obama administration even included it in their climate change plan.

Geologic carbon sequestration has come back into the public eye with the introduction of a new study published in Nature that observed bacteria and fungi n the soil has become more active with increasing global temperatures. These microbes feeding on dead plants and leaves are releasing carbon dioxide that has been trapped in the soil.

Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts said that the uncontrolled microbes are speeding up climate change.

Carbon derived from microbes has been found by researchers to have significantly increased since the 1990s. This puts the long-term effectiveness of geologic carbon sequestration in doubt.


One thought on “Natural Climate Solutions Are Great, But Some Could Pose Unforeseen Consequences

  1. I really like how you tie in the current devastation that is affecting the state of California right now. The amount of devastation that has hit the state is some of the worst we have ever seen. Replanting trees to the soil and not thinning out the land so much, decreasing the risk of wildfires. Sounds like a good idea to me and I think the state needs to look at that.


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