Can Nature Save us From Climate Change?

08/09/2013 09:36 am ET | Updated Oct 09, 2013

2013-08-08-Forest.jpg (Photo Credit: Bridget Besaw / The Nature Conservancy)

Author: Louis Blumberg, Director of the California Climate Change Program for The Nature Conservancy, leads a multidisciplinary team to develop a first-of-its-kind suite of nature-based responses to climate change. Follow him on twitter.

Yes! It may seem counterintuitive that our best defense against rising sea levels, blazing hot temperatures and wildfires, and big winter storms caused by climate change is nature itself, but it's a little known fact that deserves some attention. Investing in natural resources can protect us and fight climate change.

Two recent reports in California show momentum in identifying the climate change problem and growing public outcry for action. On August 8, the California Environmental Protection Agency issued a report stating significant climate change impacts are happening throughout the state. Two weeks ago, the Public Policy Institute of California's (PPIC) annual survey on the environment found that most Californians believe the effects of global warming have already begun, and 79 percent say it is important that the state government pass regulations and spend money now on efforts to reduce global warming.

So where do natural solutions fit in? Nature is a powerful tool right at our fingertips offering tangible results. Conserving our natural resources gets to the root of the problem. If we reduce carbon pollution, we will reduce the increasing impacts of climate change.

Take our carbon rich Redwood and Sierra Nevada forests. Proper management and protection of these magnificent trees removes carbon from the air and puts it back on the land by storing it in trees and other plants, reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires - the top concern for Californians in the PPIC survey.

Protecting wetlands can reduce threats to public safety from sea level rise, and restoring a natural floodplain - especially around cities - can reduce impacts from floods as storms become more severe and frequent.

Progressive government policies help curb emissions, like the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, AB 32 which established a comprehensive regulatory program to decrease the overall amount of carbon pollution coming from California by 20 percent. The Nature Conservancy has been active with other stakeholders and the governors' office for more than six years to ensure the full and successful implementation of this ground-breaking law, which is a global model.

The Nature Conservancy is working on all fronts to develop a comprehensive suite of nature-based solutions to climate change. This includes strategies to reduce and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from forest conservation and to reduce risk to human and natural communities from climate-driven hazards such as rising sea levels, flooding, wildfire, and disruption of water supplies.

Californians and climate scientists are clearly on the same page. We can make a difference if we act now, and nature is a big part of the solution set. But the longer we wait, the more difficult and the more expensive it will be to solve this problem.

Is the turning point finally here? Seems only natural.