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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Oct 31;114(44):11645-11650. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1710465114. Epub 2017 Oct 16.

Natural climate solutions.

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The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA 22203;
Department of Biology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807.
The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA 22203.
Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA 02540.
Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY 12545;
TerraCarbon LLC, Charlottesville, VA 22903.
Resources for the Future, Washington, DC 20036.
Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, Scotland, United Kingdom.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901.
Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Brazil, Brasilia 70000, Brazil.
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory & Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499.
World Resources Institute, Washington, DC 20002.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, St. Lucia, QLD 4067, Australia.
Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-901 83 Umeå, Sweden.
Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108.
Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.
Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8526.
Wetlands International, 6700 AL Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Gund Institute for the Environment, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405.


Better stewardship of land is needed to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goal of holding warming to below 2 °C; however, confusion persists about the specific set of land stewardship options available and their mitigation potential. To address this, we identify and quantify "natural climate solutions" (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. We find that the maximum potential of NCS-when constrained by food security, fiber security, and biodiversity conservation-is 23.8 petagrams of CO2 equivalent (PgCO2e) y-1 (95% CI 20.3-37.4). This is ≥30% higher than prior estimates, which did not include the full range of options and safeguards considered here. About half of this maximum (11.3 PgCO2e y-1) represents cost-effective climate mitigation, assuming the social cost of CO2 pollution is ≥100 USD MgCO2e-1 by 2030. Natural climate solutions can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030 for a >66% chance of holding warming to below 2 °C. One-third of this cost-effective NCS mitigation can be delivered at or below 10 USD MgCO2-1 Most NCS actions-if effectively implemented-also offer water filtration, flood buffering, soil health, biodiversity habitat, and enhanced climate resilience. Work remains to better constrain uncertainty of NCS mitigation estimates. Nevertheless, existing knowledge reported here provides a robust basis for immediate global action to improve ecosystem stewardship as a major solution to climate change.


agriculture; climate mitigation; ecosystems; forests; wetlands

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