2016 Spring Flood in North Louisiana. A man looking down a flooded railway line.

Most countries have formulated climate change adaptation plans but few nations have incorporated their protected areas into their plans, or are planning for climate change within their protected areas according to the UN. Better integration offers new opportunities for hope and good value for money to stem rising costs of climate change. C . Paxton image and copyright.

Earth’s climate is changing whether we like it or not, and the damage manifested is very expensive both in monetary terms and total suffering so we’d better be as well prepared for it as we can. I’ve just completed a Learning For Nature online course focusing on protected areas and climate change that was a real eye opener!

If you need to acquaint yourself with Climate Change fundamentals check out the article below on CNN:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/18/health/climate-change-google-questions-answered/index.html

If you want to test your knowledge about appropriate responses, try taking the CNN quiz (it’s not easy, you might want to retake it a few times):

https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/04/specials/climate-change-solutions-quiz/index.html

Media discussion is thankfully moving on from a) whether it’s really happening and b) the extent of human culpability toward more practical considerations of best practices in adaptation and mitigation.  These are two positive and appropriate responses to climate change that we can count upon to help society and our fellow creatures.

Humans are good at adapting, improvising and overcoming difficulties. Adaptation is the modification of  behaviours and practices, tools and equipment to suit the new realities that changing climate impose upon us and mitigation is action that reduces the drivers of climate change.

Drivers of climate change include a) the emissions of newly generated and previously trapped greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into our atmosphere, and b) the decrease in carbon sinks such as cane breaks, forests, grasslands, wetlands, peat soils and algal communities.

Humans can increase carbon sinks through:

  • afforestation (planting trees in places that didn’t used to have them, preference being for native species suited to the local ecology) and
  • reforestation (replanting trees that were removed from previously forested areas, preference being for native species suited to the local ecology).
  • protection of other natural carbon sinks, cane breaks, grasslands, wetlands, peat-soils, coral reefs, sea-grass beds, Kelp forests, etc.

My course began by presenting reasons why protected areas are crucially important in both climate change adaptation and mitigation. (The original IUCN source: Natural Solutions – Protected Areas: Helping people cope with climate change.) Then moved on to cover changes we need to make in order to realize optimal support and use of protected areas and desired outcomes.

Why are protected areas important in response to climate change?

  • Protected areas are important because they represent the largest area of land under any single designated use in the world today.
  • They are financed, governed by rules and regulations, have expert staff and some of the management resources needed. However there is need for increased specific funding and capacity building.
  • In most cases they already store huge amounts of carbon.
  • In most cases they could be readily adjusted to be managed more optimally for climate change. In most cases this would be better for biodiversity conservation too.
  • In most cases there are reservoirs of local expert indigenous knowledge that should be empowered and enabled to assist in monitoring , reporting, advice and consultation.
  • There is considerable scope for incorporating protected areas into strategic planning and expanding the potential to mitigate climate change. The corollary is true that there’s great scope for including climate change adaptation and mitigation into protected area management.
  • There is scope for expanding the area under protection and in some cases connecting protected areas to allow better movement and interaction of species, and increasing the value for climate change adaptation.
  • Incorporating protected areas into climate change adaptation and mitigation planning represents very good value for money. It is currently underfunded. Realignment of existing spending and the replacement of perverse subsidies for helpful ones would make this affordable.

Anyway, I suggest you check out this Learning For Nature online course focusing on protected areas and climate change and be sure to select allow your browser to use Flash in your browser settings, click the button to download the latest version of Flash if yours is out of date.