Natural Climate Solutions: Feasible or Fantasy?
“Natural climate solutions” are a set of conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that some have claimed can offer more than 30% of the required mitigation of “near-term” carbon emissions to hold global warming below 2°C. Some have criticized these claims for overstating the potential of biological carbon sinks, arguing that the advocates for natural climate solutions are motivated by conservation of biodiversity rather than mitigation of climate change. And yet the clamor around natural climate solutions in the policy world continues to grow, with multiple bipartisan legislative efforts in the new Congress focused on strategies such as carbon sequestration in soils by farmers. In this course, we will explore various dimensions of natural climate solutions, including reduced deforestation, reforestation, afforestation, wetlands restoration, biochar, no-till agriculture and other farming practices to increase carbon content of soils. We will examine the feasibility of each proposed action and also the potential limitations. We will also explore policy dimensions for encouraging such efforts, if desirable, through direct subsidies, regulation, or integration into carbon pricing regimes including carbon offsets. By the end of the semester, we hope that all participants will have a clearer understanding of the potential role for natural climate solutions in national and international climate mitigation strategies.