Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Restoring Nature

Peter Fiekowsky, an MIT-educated physicist and engineer, has written "Climate Restoration: The Only Future That Will Sustain the Human Race" to address the problem of the shortfall of the Paris Accords (COP21) which will not reduce emissions sufficiently to keep global temperatures at or below 1.5C. This will necessitate removing a trillion tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere by 2050, and he proceeds to lay out the technologies for achieving this. He identifies four major technologies for greenhouse gas removal and storage: Ocean iron fertilization; synthetic limestone manufacture; seaweed permaculture; and methane oxidation.These technologies are existing practices and they require little if any government funding, since they can be financed largely through existing markets. These are necessary approaches because mechanical systems for removing carbon don't even come close, and building out these systems has a significant carbon footprint.

COP26 in 2021 did not improve on the emissions reduction quotas, but "Adaptation and Loss and Damage" was incorporated as another dimension of the accords. Philanthropies and country governments pledged funds for loss and damage. These efforts could be scaled up considering the mounting challenges of the most vulnerable communities. Last year's COP27 held in Egypt further incorporated the impact of climate change on water, food security and forests because of the increasing aridification around the globe that threatens the natural resources that we rely upon for life.

So there's a significant amount of work needed for policy development among the world's countries, which Fiekowsky has been instrumental in establishing. The Foundation for Climate Restoration (FCR), which works with scientists, innovators, policymakers, citizens, faith leaders, activists, and students to create the understanding and policy needed to further climate restoration. The Foundation has been instrumental in the adoption of climate restoration as a goal by both the Vatican and the United Nations.

Ecosystem restoration offers the opportunity to effectively halt and reverse degradation, improve ecosystem services and recover biodiversity. One interesting thought problem about natures' ability to reconstruct itself in the absence of humans is offered up by Emma Bryce. Her article, "What would happen to Earth if humans went extinct?". But this process would take millions of years to restore the earth to establish the original wilderness that existed before humans migrated out of Africa. It might behoove us to retain just a few million humans to get back to some semblance of balance in the ecosphere, and significantly reduce the human carbon footprint.