Climate and Nature

3 nature-based solutions to help us start sequestering carbon now

Coral reefs are among the nature-based solutions that we can support and protect in order to sequester excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Coral reefs are among the nature-based solutions that we can support and protect in order to sequester excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Image: REUTERS/Angie Teo

Eric Shahzar
Alumni, Global Shapers Community, Karachi Hub, World Economic Forum
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Climate and Nature

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  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are 50% higher today than before the industrial era.
  • To deal with this, it is not simply enough to cut carbon emissions — we must actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.
  • In this endeavour, high-tech solutions may be eclipsed in cost and capacity by the nature-based solutions already available to us.

Today, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are over 50% higher than before the onset of the industrial era. As such, it is no longer enough to slow our emissions — we must actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques, through the use of machines, have gained significant attention in our collective efforts to combat accelerated climate change. Direct air capture (DAC) is a technology that removes carbon dioxide from the air with an engineered and mechanical system.

However, in pursuing a sustainable future, we must not overlook the immense potential of nature-based solutions that serve as natural carbon sinks.

Prioritizing nature-based solutions is our best bet at achieving sustainable carbon capture and storage. Moreover, we don’t need to invent them; they already exist and do their job effectively. These eco-friendly options do not only capture carbon dioxide effectively, but they also promote overall ecosystem health.

Reforestation, cultivating coral reefs as carbon sinks and regenerative agriculture all hold great promise.

Atmospheric CO2 levels have been rising precipitously for decades. Prioritizing nature-based solutions is our best bet at achieving sustainable carbon capture and storage.
Atmospheric CO2 levels have been rising precipitously for decades. Prioritizing nature-based solutions is our best bet at achieving sustainable carbon capture and storage. Image: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory/Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Reforestation of trees and mangroves

Planting trees and mangroves represents a powerful means of sequestering carbon dioxide and regenerating ecosystems. The Amazon rainforest stores more than 75 billion tonnes of carbon and, as such, is at the heart of the global climate crisis. It plays a crucial role in the fight against climate change; its fate is intimately tied to the global fight against climate change.

In a promising turn of events, deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest witnessed a significant decline of 61% during the first month in office for President Lula. Building on this positive momentum, under President Lula's leadership, the Brazilian government has made a resolute commitment to completely halt deforestation in the Amazon by 2030.

Despite contributing less than 1% to global carbon emissions, Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. But the country’s climate action policies and reforestation efforts have been remarkable. In Keti Bundar, South Pakistan, the government is pushing forward with efforts to restore mangroves, with a record set by planting 1 million mangrove plants in a single day.

These decisive actions set a powerful example for other nations, emphasizing the urgent need to prioritize rainforest and mangrove preservation. They pave the way for a more sustainable future, illustrating the potential for positive change in the face of pressing environmental challenges.

Carbon balancing through coral reefs

Coral reefs, in addition to their remarkable biodiversity, possess an impressive capacity to capture carbon dioxide. About 25% of all marine species live in and around coral reefs, making them one of the most diverse habitats in the world. Perhaps even more importantly, corals are closely affiliated with seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and many deep lagoons and shelves where carbon can be sequestered through sedimentation.

Alarming predictions, however, indicate that by 2050, 95% of the world's coral could experience heat stress, potentially killing them off and their ability to sequester carbon.

Seaweeds, such as kelp, act as potent carbon sinks. Globally, seaweeds are estimated to sequester nearly 200 million tonnes of CO2 yearly — equivalent to New York’s annual emissions. By protecting and restoring these marine ecosystems, we can simultaneously combat climate change and safeguard the habitats that countless species rely upon.

Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to agriculture that focuses on directly improving soil health and reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides. ​​

According to the '4 per 1000 Soils for Food Security and Climate' initiative, launched at COP21, if all the world's agricultural land sequestered 0.5 tons of carbon per hectare per year, this would amount to 2.5 gigatons of carbon storage per year, offsetting 20% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. So by simply implementing soil-building agricultural practices, we can systematically remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it back in the ground. Beyond carbon sequestration, healthy soils provide many benefits, including enhanced water filtration, improved crop growth and preservation of vital pollinators.

In some places, regenerative agriculture is already being used effectively. For example, in some Thai rice fields, farmers have discovered an eco-friendly secret weapon in their battle against crop pests: ducks. The army of ducks has become integral members of the farming systems, expertly patrolling the fields and gobbling up pesky insects and weeds, inevitably reducing the need for harmful pesticides. This ingenious and natural approach exemplifies the tremendous potential of harmonizing with nature.

Nature-based solutions for the future

Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is essential to deal effectively with climate change. Highly engineered systems for carbon removal are valuable innovations. However, to begin today economically and effectively reversing centuries of greenhouse gas emissions, nature-based solutions are our best bet.

By combining these approaches with the best high-tech innovations humanity has to offer, we can and will reverse climate change. But we must begin today.

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