In the first half of this year alone, we’ve seen record-breaking heat waves, furious forest fires, and increasingly powerful storms across the globe, underscoring the dangerous cliff that we’re already perched upon, and previewing only a fraction of the consequences we’ll soon face.
By reducing the EPA’s authority, we are setting ourselves up for failure as we seek to tackle some of the largest polluters in the economy: coal- and fossil fuel-fired power plants.
The Energy Information Association predicts that energy demand alone will grow by 47% over the next 30 years. The multitudes of other carbon emitting activities performed by humans will only compound these increasing demands. The fight to reverse climate change will continue to be an even steeper uphill battle if we don’t begin to take action now.
While some groups argue over the effectiveness and efficacy of the range of solutions we have at our disposal, we are experiencing the devastating effects of climate change now. We have the ability today to fight for our future through options like reforestation, carbon capture technology, and green technology, but we are not maximizing our investment in or utilization of them.
The urgent nature of the climate crisis means that we need to use every tool in our arsenal to fight this battle, immediately. There are solutions accessible to all organizations, regardless of size, industry, or revenue – building sustainability into everyday operations is an accessible reality, and even limited resources can still make a meaningful impact.
If organizations make the effort to both reduce and remove their carbon emissions, reaching their goals will be feasible in shorter timelines. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has also released studies showing that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the current global goal — is only attainable through the dual approach of jointly reducing and removing emissions.
Within the world of carbon removal, there are engineered solutions and there are a range of natural approaches that leverage the power of trees to capture carbon from the air. Nature-based carbon reduction solutions are increasingly cost-effective and deliver promising results.
Reforestation, the most common nature-based solution, offers a host of benefits alongside carbon reduction. Reforestation bolsters ecosystems for local wildlife, positively benefits local water tables, provides future wood-based resources, and contributes to carbon removal.
The National Academy of Sciences has argued that nature-based climate change solutions, including reforestation, should contribute to at least 20% of the solutions needed between now and 2050. The same study found that the top 20 nature-based solutions could offer one-third of the cost-effective solutions to climate change. The UN estimates that ecosystem restoration could remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gasses. For reference, the U.S. currently emits about 6.6 gigatons per year. American forests currently capture 15% of the country’s emissions.
Current and past reforestation efforts, including some individual countries’ Paris climate pledges, have amounted to over 100 million hectares of land promised for reforestation. In 2020, the World Economic Forum announced the Trillion Trees Campaign for global reforestation.
Leading environmental, research, and economic groups recognize the benefits of reforestation and other nature-based solutions, evidenced by the onslaught of initiatives in the last two years. However, recognition won’t move the needle. Our world needs large-scale commitments of capital, time, and people to fund and plant trees right now. For the U.S. to reach its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, business leaders need to go beyond committing to climate action to curb their own carbon output and advocate for change at the government level.
It’s been well-documented that companies that initiate strong environmental policies and programs have links to higher revenues and valuation, as shown by studies from McKinsey, the World Economic Forum, and Harvard Business Review. The motivation and opportunity for corporations to pursue positive climate actions is readily available. Businesses need to get ahead of expectations from their customers, employees, and stakeholders to lead the charge on climate action. With this increased societal pressure, we’ve seen a new wave of sustainable pledges, and now, we must push those same corporations to follow through on their promises.
The headlines are clearer with each new mega-storm, extinct species, and human life ruined by climate change. The climate crisis is on our doorstep, and we must work together to stop it before it’s too late.
As the Supreme Court ruling shows, we can’t rely solely on governments to set the standards and create solutions. Businesses of all sizes, and even individuals have the tools to solve this crisis, push for stronger regulations, and play important roles in shaping our future. That’s why it will be important to make nature-based carbon removal solutions accessible and affordable for everyone.
The question that now remains is how we can do everything possible to meet the moment. Supporting nature-based efforts is a crucial part of that formula, along with building sustainability into our daily lives as individuals and advocating to improve the practices of the corporations that run our economy. This fight is too important to leave anything on the sideline.
Andrei Cherny is the CEO of Aspiration and has spent more than twenty-five years working to make the financial system more sustainable and fair. He combines a background as an advisor to some of America’s top companies, the co-founder and president of a media start-up, a financial fraud prosecutor, historian, Navy reserve officer, and a nationally recognized economic policy expert. Before co-founding Aspiration, Andrei launched an