Tomorrow sees the end of the COP21 talks in Paris. Whether any meaningful result will come from them remains to be seen, not least due to the event’s sponsorship by four companies that 200 MT of carbon dioxide a year, and George Osborne’s recent budget cuts, which will equate to cuts of over 30% to environmental organisations by 2020.
In all, it seems we will have to tackle this ourselves. But can we really stop such a sinister specter as climate change when it looms over us, so strong, already?
Well, we probably can’t stop it or its consequences altogether, but we can reverse the worst results of man-made climate change. The solution I propose is full-scale restoration of damaged ecosystems. I propose to hinder global warming with rewilding.
The talks couldn’t have been better timed, certainly for the UK. The heavy rains throughout November and December have wreaked havoc among the nation, with large areas of the UK being put under serious flood risk. Governments tend to respond by canalising and dredging the river in its middle course, to move the river’s discharge further down. In reality, this does little more than reciprocate flooding further downstream. Far better would be to target the floodwater from its origin: up in the hills and mountains where the rivers begin. By allowing trees and scrub to regain a foothold in the uplands of a nation that has only 12% forest cover, more water is absorbed into the plant’s roots by transpiration, while creating excellent habitat for a whole range of wildlife.
But trees are also vital for reducing emissions via carbon sequestering. The National Forest, a woodlands connection and creation project running in 3 counties in England, has helped sequester 50,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere- or 0.05% of the UK’s emissions contribution. Bear in mind this is only 200 square miles of the Mid Counties, and that there are numerous other projects, such as Dartmoor’s Moor Trees, Warwickshire’s Heart of England Forest and the Highlands’ Trees for Life, working up and down the country. By helping lock up such great quantities of carbon, resurgent forests help buffer the effects of climate change, to the benefit of us all and virtually no cost.
Bogs are another huge sink of carbon. Following the clearance of inappropriately planted blocks of commercial conifers, peat is being rewetted across the Flow Country, the 400 000 square km area of Northern Scotland, restoring bogs that hold 400 million tonnes of carbon! The area has been shortlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and supports golden plover, greenshank, black-throated diver and plants such as sundew and bog bean.
Trying to combat climate change is a monumental task, particularly in the face of a government that chooses to ignore the effects to concentrate on short-term economic growth. But there is a strong public support, which is what is important for any movement. Rewilding projects give people a great sense of achievement, and help empower these individuals.
We may face uncertain and turbulent times, but we can certainly show what we can do, and fight the oncoming front.