You suck: and I mean that in only the nicest way. It’s true. There are things you do that suck carbon out of the atmosphere - where it’s doing harm - and beneficially store it down here. We need to do much more such sucking to save our natural heritage. In other words, the more we each suck in one respect, the less we suck in another.
You see, while scaling out the use of fossil fuels is a critical step, the First Solution, to fighting climate change, it isn’t enough. Leading scientists say that the safe amount of atmospheric carbon is 350 parts per million, a level which Earth rocketed past in the 1980s. Today we’re at 388 ppm, which helps explain the melting glaciers of Washington, burning Texas, the receding Alaskan coastline.
But even if we choked off the smokestacks and exhaust pipes today (if only we could!), we would still need action to suck some of that carbon out of the atmosphere to return it to safe levels.
Storing biocarbon is the Second Solution to protecting our heritage from the ravages of extreme climate change.
Much of the work that Conservation Northwest does to keep the Northwest wild relates to helping nature adapt to these changing conditions. For instance, we promote thinning of dry forests to reduce their vulnerability to increased wildfire. We protect habitat corridors to enable wildlife to move in relation to changing temperate and other environmental conditions. We also protect larger natural areas to give those ecosystems a better chance of withstanding larger disturbances.
But the present rate of climate change is too extreme for these adaptations to keep up. In fact, models of how the climate is changing predict such major shifts in environmental conditions that many plant communities in the Northwest might not be recognizable within only a half century.
Temperature and precipitation patterns will have changed too much for the ecosystems we see today to still occupy much of our region during our children’s lifetimes.
The good news is that there are things we can do about it. We must all suck more!
The Pacific Northwest has a unique capability to lead the world in carbon storage. Our forests store amazing amounts of carbon, if we plant more trees and allow them to grow longer and larger. Our agricultural soils are much more productive when they are richer in carbon, which can be achieved with sensible changes in tillage. Modest changes in how our communities process waste (from sewage to yard compost) can have a massive impact.
That’s why Conservation Northwest is a partner in the Northwest Biocarbon Initiative, a project of Climate Solutions, and I serve on its steering committee. Check out the amazing solution story videos to learn how practical it can be to suck up carbon, solving a range of community challenges while saving money. You can also connect with us on Facebook. Maybe you have a solution story yourself, or an idea for one, that you can share.
It’s going to take all of us sucking together to address this challenge.