by Ellie Cohen December 2016 Point Blue Fall Quarterly
About 45 minutes into my flight home from Dublin in July, I glanced out the window to see a freeway of enormous icebergs floating in the ocean. A few minutes later we reached the southeast coast of Greenland. Dark craggy peaks pierced the sky with giant rivers of murky snowmelt pouring out to the sea, like diseased veins of a severely ill patient.
No longer a sheet of white snow and ice stretching to its pelagic edge, Greenland is now the poster child for climate change and humanity’s growing impacts on our biosphere.
Fortunately there is hope. A “perfect storm” of new laws and statutes on nature-based solutions – globally, nationally and regionally- presents opportunities for Point Blue and our partners to develop and assess natural infrastructure demonstration projects that provide multiple benefits to society and wildlife.
The historic Paris climate accord, signed by every nation in the world, officially went into effect in early November. It includes a global commitment to sustaining healthy ecosystems to help sequester greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and reduce the impacts of increasing extremes such as drought, heatwaves, storms and sea level rise.
Two new California laws require state agencies, counties and cities to incorporate natural infrastructure into their climate adaptation efforts. Another pioneering California law allows for payments for ecosystem services, recognizing source watersheds (including meadows, streams and upland habitat) as water infrastructure and opening the door to public works dollars for habitat restoration.
And, Senate Bill 32, signed into law by Governor Brown in September, extends California’s climate law by requiring a reduction in GHGs to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This means reducing the state’s emissions by ~ 100 million metric tons per year more than current policies get us to.
Nature-based solutions will be essential to achieving this urgent outcome for people and wildlife.