With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow from the 31st of October to the 12th of November, there is a global focus on climate science and research, and importantly what actions we can take to tackle climate change and build a sustainable future.
The last decade has seen some of the warmest years on record and an increasing number of extreme weather events on a global scale. More than ever before, we are looking to research to help provide evidence of the best course of action to mitigate climate change and adapt for the future.
At Springer Nature, we recognise vital importance of research in identifying climate solutions. Here, we take a look at some recent and impactful research from climate scientists around the world, exploring different practical approaches to climate solutions, and their potential impacts.
With rising sea levels and an increase in extreme weather events, low lying coastal areas are particularly at risk. A team of US researchers have been working to bring together climate science, hydrodynamic, engineering, economic and modelling approaches to quantify how coral reefs contribute to flood prevention and reducing the associated impact on populations, infrastructure and economic activity.
This work explores the potential of nature-based approaches to sustainability and building climate resilience and quantifies the risk reduction associated with environmental conservation.
Borja Reguero, Associate Research Professor at the University of California Santa Cruz, explains more about this approach in a ‘Behind the Paper’ post shared on the Springer Nature Sustainability Community.
Natural carbon stores
Peatlands are an effective carbon store, helping to reduce carbon emissions, as well as providing a home for many ecosystems and helping to control water quality. However, over centuries, peatlands have been drained to allow the land to be used in other ways – becoming a source of carbon emissions. Recognising the potential to reduce or reverse this impact, there has been a move to re-wet peatlands, but it was not clear whether re-wetting peatlands returned them to their natural state.
Franziska Tanneberger, senior researcher and Director of the Greifswald Mire Centre at Greifswald University, shared further insights into recent research in this important area with the Springer Nature Sustainability Community. This work was carried out at 320 rewetted and 243 undrained peatland sites, and established that, although rewetting drained peatlands does strongly reduce or stop CO2 emissions, the rewetted sites had long term differences in characteristics. These differences mean that management approaches used in natural, undrained, wetlands are not necessarily transferable to rewetted peatlands – demonstrating the importance of understanding these altered environments in future approaches to sustainable management.
Finding the best approach
Bringing together societal action and research has significant potential when building a sustainable and climate-resilient future, but there are many possible approaches to doing this. Recent analysis of 32 co-production initiatives – where research and practice were brought together to explore ecosystems – demonstrated that these clustered into six different modes, each with their own strengths and limitations. The hope is that this work will inform researchers looking to undertake co-production methodologies to critically and effectively appraise their approach.
Josephine Chambers, a postdoctoral Researcher at Wageningen University, shares more about this analysis, and each mode’s challenges and risks, with the Springer Nature Sustainability Community.
Banking natural capital
In early 2021, nations around the world agreed to adopt standards for natural capital accounting – called the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Ecosystem Accounting, to seek to bring together environmental and economic data to better understand the impacts of economic activities on climate and the environment. Recent research has sought to build on this work, proposing a Natural Capital Bank to further the discussion about how to make positive impacts in translating the understanding developed through SEEA into meaningful action.
Michael Vardon, Associate Professor at The Australian National University, shares more about the team’s work on the Springer nature Sustainability Community.
Personal carbon allowances
Increasingly global communities are focussed on reaching net-zero emissions. Whilst many of these conversations focus on large scale operations, such as industry, farming, and power plants, there is also a role that a more individual approach can play in reducing emissions.
Building on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, recent research has sought to explore how personal carbon allowances could help to support long-term behavioural change and reduce emissions and help nations to meet net-zero targets. Francesco Fuso Nerini, Associate Professor and Director of the KTH Climate Action Centre at KTH - Royal Institute of Technology, explains more in a blog post on the Springer Nature Sustainability Community.
Policies and international agreements are an incredibly important element of tackling climate change. Building a sustainable future for all relies on informed local, national and international policy approaches to support effective action. But what can we learn from previous policies and approaches to help us continue to making progress in providing a sustainable global future?
In 1987 the Montreal Protocol, one of the most successful environmental policies of all time, was adopted by UN Members in response to research demonstrating the impact of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the ozone layer. As a result of this protocol, the use of CFCs was phased out, levels in the atmosphere have reduced and now, thirty years later, the hole is closing.
Charles Parker, Associate Professor at Uppsala University, and Paul Young, Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University, explore the wide-ranging impacts of the Montreal protocol in a post for the Springer Nature Sustainability Community, including quantifying the benefits and learnings from the policy that we could use as we consider future climate policies.
Ahead of COP26, Springer Nature Group has launched its Climate Research in Action campaign. The campaign includes a compilation of the most important recent climate change articles, and seeks to explore approaches to mitigating climate challenges and adapting to our future world.
About the Author
Sorrel is Head of Communities and Engagement at Springer Nature, and is based in London. Her main focus is providing opportunities for researchers to engage and share their work with different audiences, including through the Nature Portfolio and Springer Nature Communities.