New IPCC report says nature-based solutions are key to facing climate change

The UN has just released its latest climate change report. The report cites nature-based solutions as key to dealing with the climate crisis. Because of its variety of ecosystems and extensive biodiversity, Chile can play an important part in this shift.

The latest report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focuses on the key role that nature plays in mitigating the climate crisis, but that human beings must choose to invest in it. “We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.

According to the report, with the exception of solar and wind energy, the most effective strategies for mitigating CO2 emissions are all natural solutions: ecosystem protection, restoration, and better management of farmlands. The IPCC found that these could mitigate between 11 to 14 billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses per year.

The report explains that investing in these solutions costs 29 times less than what it costs to stabilize the climate and confront rising temperatures and changing weather patterns.

Climate Change in Chile

A report by the World Bank group recognizes Chile as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, due to a combination of political, geographic, and social factors. The country ranked 29th in the world in the ND-GAIN Index, which summarizes this vulnerability. Average annual temperatures in Chile are expected to increase by 1.4 to 1.7°C by the middle of this century and by as much as 3 to 3.5°C by the end of it. This increase is predicted to be strongest in the northernmost regions. 

As part of the “Pacific Ring of Fire“, a path along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes, Chile is “highly exposed and vulnerable to multiple hazards … which can change due to climate impacts, such as wildfires, floods, landslides, and droughts.”

The World Bank report states that Chile’s “fisheries and aquaculture, forestry, agriculture and livestock, and the country’s water resources” are all vulnerable. These sectors will require drastic adaptations in the coming years.

Precipitation is also projected to decrease and many already dry areas could become even more arid in the decades to come. This, combined with rising temperatures and increasingly strong winds, could cause an increase in evapotranspiration (the water loss occurring from the processes of evaporation and transpiration), which would impact surface water reservoirs. Changes in precipitation can leave many forested areas vulnerable to wildfires and especially those in the zone ranging from Santiago to Puerto Montt.

But changes in precipitation patterns, along with wind, glacial melt, and other climatic conditions, will also affect Chile’s rivers and could cause more frequent episodes of flash flooding,  even outside of the rainy season. This in turn could severely impact agriculture, water for human consumption, and hydroelectric energy supply.

Opportunities for learning and adapting

Nature-based solutions, such as conserving rich ecosystems, can help tackle climate change. The NGO Conservation International has found that many of the planet’s largest and most critical carbon sinks, such as the Chilean Peatlands, overlap with high-biodiversity hotspots. As explained by the World Economic Forum, “protecting lands essential for climate stability also conserves habitats for thousands of mammals, birds and reptiles.”

But lush and humid areas are not the only ecosystems which can provide climate adaptation solutions. A study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) found that the Atacama Desert, one of the world’s most arid landscapes, could actually teach us a lot about how to adapt to desertification. The region, which according to National Geographic receives only slightly more than half an inch of rain per year, actually has dozens of species of plants growing from its soil. Researchers described these plants as a “genetic goldmine” for engineering crop resilience to face climate change.

Chile also has a fairly robust national adaptation plan, which was further enhanced by an additional commitment plan in 2020, which went beyond what the country put forward in 2015 under the Paris Agreement. 

But many of its regions, from the native forests in the east to the Antarctic territory near the south pole, are still at very high risk.

The Boric administration promises that climate and environmental concerns will be at the center of its policy agenda. The proposed new Constitution will also contain a much more extensive section on environmental rights and protection.


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