2022 in review: Climate breakdown sharpens the focus on nature's solutions

© Flavio Forner

As 2022 draws to a close, Conservation News is revisiting some of our most significant stories of the year. 

Climate change has swiftly moved from the realm of prediction to the reality of the nightly news. In the face of growing climate disasters, Conservation International’s research and field programs are shining a light on a critical solution: nature. 

Here we look at groundbreaking science, strategies to adapt to climate impacts and innovative initiatives in communities around the world. 

New report: Without nature, there is no path to a climate-safe future

Scientists from Conservation International and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research released a first-of-its-kind blueprint for maximizing nature’s role in tackling global warming. Rooted in the latest science, the Exponential Roadmap for Natural Climate Solutions finds that to avoid catastrophic climate change, the land sector — including agriculture and forestry — must reach net zero emissions by 2030, and it offers guidance to get there. 

Read more here.

Takeaways from major UN climate reports

This year, U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global body that analyzes climate science — and provides policy guidance — issued some of its starkest warnings yet in two reports: The first found that the catastrophic impacts of climate breakdown are mounting quickly and may soon outpace humanity’s ability to adapt. The second provided the most conclusive endorsement yet of nature as a climate solution. It revealed that reducing the destruction of ecosystems, restoring them and improving the management of working lands, like farms, are among the most effective options for mitigating carbon emissions.

Read more here and here.

What on Earth is ‘climate adaptation’

You may have seen the term “adaptation” in the news, but what exactly is it? Giacomo Fedele, who leads Conservation International’s climate adaptation work explains: It’s how communities and nations are adjusting to the many ways in which climate change is altering our lives. Fedele shares strategies from around the world — from restoring mangroves to control erosion, to planting drought resistant crops, to relocating homes away from flood-prone zones. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach  but across the board, nature is one of our greatest allies. 

Read more here.

Flood prevention in Southeast Asia’s largest river

Mounting threats — from climate change to unsustainable development — are endangering the Mekong Basin, which is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia. Conservation International is working with NASA to deploy the Freshwater Health Index — a framework that scores the health of freshwater ecosystems. So far, the index has helped communities forecast climate impacts — and map out strategies to mitigate them. NASA scientists are also developing tools to process relevant satellite datasets — such as fluctuations in temperature and rainfall — and show how different climate change scenarios could impact the basin. 

Read more here.

New science: Removing ‘climber’ plants doubles tree growth

Fast-growing, invasive climbing plants — such as lianas or rattan — proliferate in forest clearings, often outcompeting native trees for sunlight, nutrients and other resources. Deforestation has made “climbers” super-abundant in many forests, where they can slow the growth of native trees. A recent study found that thinning these pesky plants from a forest can more than double tree biomass growth — making climber-cutting a major new strategy for restoring degraded forests and increasing the carbon they absorb. 

Read more here.

From fisheries to farms – turning fish waste into fertilizer and feed in the Galápagos

Each week, local fisheries in the Galápagos generate approximately 4,500 pounds of fish processing waste — which is subsequently dumped into landfills, where it can emit methane and other climate-altering greenhouse gases. To make better use of fish waste and curb its emissions, scientists at Conservation International came up with a solution: transform it into usable products like plant fertilizer and food for farm animals. 

Read more here.

Vanessa Bauza is the editorial director at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.