The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The major climate-change solution hiding in plain sight: Nature

A field in Kent County, Md.
A field in Kent County, Md. (Andrea Sachs/The Washington Post)
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The Dec. 8 front-page article “Off course, on a warming planet” rightly pointed out that we need to tackle climate change on many fronts, including wind and solar energy, electric vehicles, nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage. Right now, these efforts aren’t adding up. Effective government policy is the most important tool for taking these solutions to scale.

But the article overlooked another major solution hiding in plain sight: nature. The science is clear. Globally, nature can deliver more than one-third of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius. Natural climate solutions are proven ways of storing and reducing carbon emissions in the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands. In the United States alone, one-fifth of carbon emissions could be prevented or sequestered by harnessing the power of nature — roughly the equivalent of removing the emissions from all U.S. cars and trucks from the road.

Time is not on our side, and we have a lot of work to do. Transitioning to zero-carbon energy solutions remains crucial, but natural climate solutions are available today, relatively affordable and backed by science. Let’s get to work.

Mark Tercek, Arlington

The writer is chief executive of the Nature Conservancy.