Research Affiliate Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, California, United States
Background/Question/Methods Intentionally managing ecosystems for climate mitigation is a critical component of nearly all Paris-agreement-aligned climate stabilization pathways. Despite these high stakes, there are gaps in our understanding of where, when, and how nature-based climate solutions will be effective components of a climate solutions portfolio, especially given the urgency with which activities must scale from current levels (much less than one gigaton CO2e) to the tens or hundreds of gigatons CO2e necessary to achieve meaningful negative emissions. In this talk, we present a set of interdisciplinary research themes that can help focus the community on identifying and unlocking the potential of nature-based climate solutions.
Results/Conclusions Measurement and modeling of the net greenhouse gas impact of nature-based climate solutions, especially novel strategies that don’t feature predominantly aboveground carbon stock changes, must balance rigor and uncertainty. Establishing credible counterfactuals, against which project performance is evaluated, requires a fresh look at dynamic statistical approaches. The community should re-imagine the incentive structures on the landscape in order to ensure that carbon removal compliments sustainable food and fiber intensification to feed a growing world. As nature-based climate solutions scale, we must begin to account for unintended local and teleconnected climate impacts – both positive and negative - including water, non-CO2 GHGs, and biophysical surface temperature impacts. Measures to account for permanence must integrate non-stationary climate risk to prioritize carbon stability. Finally, accessible and reproducible measurement and data tools need to be developed to lower barriers to entry, especially for smallholders. These themes will require interdisciplinary collaboration and partnerships across academia, policymakers, and practitioners in order to realize the potential of nature-based climate solutions for effective climate mitigation.