Better Land Use Can Achieve 30% of Carbon Cuts by 2030
By Tim Radford
As nations plan to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, an international team of scientists has calculated just how much the natural and farmed world could contribute to future stability by absorbing ever more carbon dioxide.
The answer is: up to 30 percent more than anyone had first thought. Natural climate solutions—a way of saving protected forests, conserved marshlands and carefully managed farmland and pasture—could deliver 37 percent of the carbon mitigation needed by 2030.
And if governments, farmers, river authorities, land managers and foresters made the best choices, such steps would mean that the world had a 66 percent chance of containing global warming to below the 2°C target agreed by 197 nations in Paris in 2015.
There are problems. The same natural machinery that could convert atmospheric carbon into foliage, timber and roots must also provide food and shelter for the expected 9 billion humans and the millions of animal species with whom humans share the planet.
But researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that even after accounting for food security, the delivery of fabrics for clothing and shelter, and the protection of biodiversity, their natural climate solutions could account for 23.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year, almost a third more than previous calculations.
As usual with intricate, headache-inducing calculations that involve the global carbon budget, the researchers had to think about the economic costs of such steps and factor in the most cost-effective solutions.
According to the authors, this means that with cost-effective constraints, their natural climate solutions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11.3 billion metric tons a year by 2030. This would be equivalent to burning no oil. If they didn't worry too much about the costs, this figure could reach 23.8 billion tons a year by the same date.
For comparison, the UN Emissions Gap report says current pledges make 2030 emissions likely to reach 11 to 13.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) above the level needed to stay on the least-cost path to meeting the higher (2oC) Paris target.
"The way we manage the lands in the future could deliver 37 percent of the solution to climate change. That is huge potential, so if we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature, as well as in clean energy and clean transport.
"We are going to have to increase food and timber production to meet the demands of a growing population, but we know we must do so in a way that addresses climate change."
The study was based on analysis of 20 already-published plans for conservation, restoration and land management. It is not the first such optimistic study: researchers have lately argued that the 2°C target set in Paris is possible, if humans start reducing greenhouse gas emissions towards zero, and do so within 40 years.
But those calculations, too, assumed careful management of the land. The next uncertainty is embedded in the response of the natural world to ever-higher ratios of atmospheric carbon. Inevitably, such solutions begin with the world's forests.
Overall, these are the planet's greatest carbon storage facility, but there is evidence that because of bad management and forest clearance the tropical forests may not be the safest of carbon banks.
Around 30 percent of the total land area is counted as forest, and better protection and better forestry practices could absorb 7 billion ton of carbon dioxide a year by 2030, said the authors.
Agricultural lands cover 11 percent of the world's surface. Changes in the way these are farmed and managed could deliver 22 percent of the emissions reductions, said the authors. This would be the equivalent of taking 522 million petrol-driven cars off the road.
Better use of chemical fertilizers could improve crop yields while reducing emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The world's wetlands—too often at risk from human exploitation—cover less than 6 percent of the planet's land surface, but they hold the most carbon per hectare.
Simply by not draining peatlands—and around 780,000 hectares a year of these are lost to plantations—humans could conserve 678 million tons of carbon a year by 2030, which would be much the same as taking 145 million cars off the roads.
And, the scientists say, there would be other rewards. Their natural climate solutions "offer a powerful set of options for nations to deliver on the Paris agreement while improving soil productivity, cleaning our air and water, and maintaining biodiversity."
"Re-greening the planet through conservation, restoration and improved land management is a necessary step for our transition to a carbon-neutral global economy and a stable climate."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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