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Night falls over Rio de Janeiro

Climate Change

Climate change is reshaping human civilization. How we respond will determine the future of our species.

© Nikada

It is the most pressing global challenge we’ve ever faced

The climate has always been changing — but the pace is now faster than humans have ever seen. Climate change threatens to make parts of the planet uninhabitable or inhospitable for life as we know it while worsening poverty, swamping coastlines and​ destroying infrastructure.

Conservation International protects perhaps humanity’s biggest ally in the fight against climate change: nature.

The Facts

30% of the solution

Nature can provide at least 30 percent of the mitigation action needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius on average (2.7 F).

65% global greenhouse gas emissions

Some 65 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions is from burning fossil fuels, and deforestation accounts for about 11 percent of those caused by humans.

1% of tree species in the Amazon

In Amazonian forests, 1 percent of the tree species sequester 50 percent of the carbon.

Conservation International addresses climate change on two fronts:

Helping communities adapt to the effects of climate change that are already happening and that are expected to accelerate, such as sea-level rise

Working to prevent further climate change by reducing emissions, enhancing carbon storage, etc.

The challenge

Current greenhouse gas emission trends put the world on course for a 3.7–4.8°C temperature increase by 2100, which would cause catastrophic effects. Even the commitments made under the new Paris Agreement fall short of the cuts required to limit warming to a relatively safer 2°C. Even if all emissions are stopped immediately, effects will continue for centuries due to the cumulative impact of emissions already in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, nearly 800 million people globally are currently considered especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The vision

Conservation International envisions a world where nature’s contribution to addressing climate change is fully maximized. This means that nature not only lives up to its potential to mitigate climate change — tropical forests alone can deliver 30% of mitigation action needed to prevent catastrophic climate change — but also is fully deployed in places where ecosystems can help vulnerable populations adapt to the already-present and future effects of climate change.

Small Step, Big Impact

Your support can make a difference in how the world responds and adapts to our changing climate.

How We Work

Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
© Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock

Protecting ‘blue carbon’ and coastal ecosystems

Coastlines are the front lines of climate change: By storing large amounts of carbon and protecting vulnerable coastal communities from rising seas, coastal ecosystems help us both mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. But if destroyed or degraded, these ecosystems release this “blue carbon” into the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change. To secure blue carbon, Conservation International leads the Blue Carbon Initiative, a major research and policy effort to protect and restore coastal ecosystems.

Read more: Blue Carbon: Mitigating climate change along our coasts

Congaree National Park, South Carolina
© Damien Roué/Flickr Creative Commons

Advising governments on sound policies

Conservation International advises on actions to ensure that ecosystems and their services are valued; that vulnerable populations are given the tools they need to adapt to climate change; and that the frameworks needed to support these policies are implemented. For example, within the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change process, Conservation International provides technical advice and supports governments and delegations. In 2015, Conservation International advised more than 20 governments during the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement — the biggest collective commitment to climate change action to date.

Read more: COP 21, COP 22, COP 23, COP 24

Jonathan Dabo, Gabriel Appiah and Benson Owusu discuss fieldwork plans at CSIR headquarters.
© Benjamin Drummond

Mapping nature’s ability to curb climate change

Natural ecosystems can help us avoid the worst effects of climate change — but which ecosystems, and how? Conservation International is identifying hotspots of “natural capital,” the places that provide the most benefits to humanity, including carbon sequestration. With this data, Conservation International helps governments and companies to understand the value of nature — in some cases, the value of stored carbon — creating powerful incentives to protect ecosystems.

Read more: What on earth is ‘natural capital’?

Read more: Mapping Natural Capital

© Jeff Yonover

Harnessing ecosystems to help us adapt

Climate change is not an issue of the future — we must adapt now, and we can’t do it without nature. Conservation International’s ecosystem-based approach to climate adaptation focuses on conserving, restoring and sustainably managing natural ecosystems. Conservation International forecasts the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, ecosystem services and communities around the world to assess vulnerabilities and build resilience, including restoring wetlands to enhance water storage and rehabilitating coastal mangrove forests to protect communities from storm surges.

Read more: Ecosystem-based adaptation

Science tool: Resilience Atlas

© Adrián Portugal

Developing REDD+ projects to protect forests

Conservation efforts are more effective when they have buy-in from the people that live in the forests and depend on them. To that end, the REDD+ initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) rewards countries and landholders for protecting and restoring forests, thereby reducing carbon emissions. Conservation International designs, advises, develops and brokers REDD+ projects around the world. For example, in Peru’s Alto Mayo Protected Forest — which despite its protected status is highly threatened by deforestation — Conservation International is showing how valuable intact forests are to people and to reducing carbon emissions.

Read more: REDD+: Saving forests to keep our climate safe

Case study: Forest conservation in Peru’s Alto Mayo region

© Charlie Shoemaker for Conservation International

Financing climate solutions

One of the most important means to scaling up climate action is through investments. Conservation International engages in a broad range of activities to increase funding for nature-based solutions, such as establishing REDD+ as part of key carbon markets and non-market mechanisms and serving as an implementing agency of the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility.

Dive deeper: Ecosystem finance: Innovative solutions for lasting conservation

© CI/photo by Tory Read

Managing supply chains and drivers of deforestation

Commercial agriculture drives at least 40 percent of tropical deforestation. To address this challenge, Conservation International works to mitigate underlying drivers of deforestation while paving the way for continued economic development. Conservation International partners with local producers, companies and governments to implement a holistic “landscape approach,” which balances conservation and economic activities.

Read more: Indonesian coffee farmers grapple with climate of uncertainty


Turning science into action

How should nature-based solutions for fighting climate change be implemented? What is the role of the priv​ate sector? What should REDD+ look like? These and other is​sues were covered in a series of briefs that translate Conservation International’s research into implementation on the ground.

News From “Human Nature”

What You Can Do

Reduce Your Energy Consumption

Look for energy efficient appliances, like ENERGY STAR products, that are independently certified to save energy.

© Robin Moore

‘I keep the world cool... Well, I used...

Polar ice is crucial for regulating our planet’s climate. Now, ice has a voice.

© Dmitry Mordvintsev


Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Do Something for the Climate

The choices we make have an impact on the climate. Now, with Conservation International’s new carbon calculator, you can assess your household’s annual carbon footprint — you can also calculate the impact of a single event or trip. Then, with a couple of clicks, you can offset your footprint by contributing to Conservation International’s carbon projects in Kenya, Peru and Madagascar.


Action to address climate change

Conservation International helps communities around the world adapt to climate change by conserving nature and building resilience.

CHAD: Combining Science and Traditional Knowledge to Combat Climate Change

ECUADOR: Socio Bosque - Forest Partners