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Our future beyond the climate crisis
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Our future beyond the climate crisis

Framing our future beyond the climate crisis


We are now at the United Nations climate conference COP26 in Scotland. While action is currently in Glasgow, the international meeting drives growing conversations here in the United States.

When you need it most a majority of AmericansNow, they claim that global warming is causing harm to them and their fellow citizens. two-thirds believe it’s not too late to slow the climate crisis and begin to turn things around.

It is crucial to convey this message to the U.S. Congress. This is where important legislation is currently being drafted in the House as well as the Senate. We have work to do in Washington, as the international community focuses its attention on global commitments to address atmospheric changes that cause more storms, droughts, and fires. Conservation groups, led by zoos or aquariums, are now coordinating to do just that.

Why aquariums and zoos? These institutions have a long tradition of educating the public on conservation of wild places. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums brings together more than 200 millions visitors each year.

Equally important, the climate crisis of today is directly related to a growing biodiversity problem. The United Nations suggested that as many as 100 million people could be affected by the climate crisis. as 1 million animal and plant species face extinction today. The destruction and degradation countless landscapes that provide habitat for species small and large, and store carbon that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere, is a major threat to biodiversity.

These areas can also be a reservoir for viral pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, to which humans have no natural immunity. The opportunity for “zoonotic” spillover of such viruses from wildlife to humans is greatly increased as the integrity of large swaths of forest is compromised — largely through the carving up of such areas for industrial agriculture, resource extraction, transportation infrastructure and via the illegal wildlife trade.

We must start actively planning our future to address the climate crisis that is causing extinction and pandemic crises. Nature-based solutions are essential to that response. These are approaches that take advantage of — and protect — the “services” that nature already provides in helping us avoid, or adapt to, the changes brought by an increasingly warming planet.

Our greatest natural defense against carbon emissions is the forest. They are the best natural protection against carbon emission. absorb roughly one-third of all fossil fuel emissionsEach year, carbon is sequestered or stored in a physical manner. Today, intact forests contain massive amounts of carbon, equivalent to about 11 years’ worth of human-related emissions. 

Intact forests also provide economic and cultural security to Indigenous peoples and local communities, whose land tenure must be secured to enable them to sustainably manage the 36 percent of the world’s intact forests they inhabit — notably in the Amazon basin. Human wellbeing and nature-based strategies should go hand-in-hand.

Our marine environment plays a crucial role. Coastal mangroves, wetlands, oyster beds, and coral reefs all help to naturally reduce the intensity of storm surges that are generated by increasing heat.

As the global average temperature climbs towards 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, we can’t afford to wait for our leaders. We need informed citizens who are active in promoting new policies to protect the planet in this critical hour.

The challenge is being met by the zoo- and aquarium communities across the country. We will use our collective voice to increase U.S. investments globally in biodiversity conservation over the next 4 years, encourage federal, state and local policies that support nature based solutions to climate change, ensure that U.S.-based climate finance doesn’t invest in intact forests and nature-based solution financing, and that U.S. capital for climate change is not used to fund climate change.

Numerous bills have been introduced in Congress to support nature-based solutions for climate change. Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzTelehealth was a godsend during the pandemic; Congress should keep the innovation going Framing our future beyond the climate crisis Manchin frustrates Democrats with latest outburst MOREReps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerFraming our future beyond the climate crisis Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach To sustain humanity COP26 must lead on both climate and biodiversity MORE(D-Ore. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickLawmakers who bucked their parties on the T infrastructure bill Framing our future beyond the climate crisis Democrats look to establish green bank for clean energy projects MORE (R-Penn.), and the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Reps. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotFraming our future beyond the climate crisis Liberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden’s agenda Blinken grilled in first hearing since Afghanistan withdrawal MORE(R-Ohio). Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanFraming our future beyond the climate crisis Overnight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling US says about 1,500 citizens remain in Afghanistan MORESens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell won’t go to White House signing ceremony for infrastructure bill Hillicon Valley — The race to report cyber breaches Senators move to include 72 hour timeline for cyber incident reporting in defense bill MORE (R-Ohio), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsChina conducts combat readiness drill after US congressional delegation arrives in Taiwan Coons leads Democratic, Republican group to climate summit Framing our future beyond the climate crisis MORE (D-Del.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOn The Money — IRS chief calls for reinforcements Burr brother-in-law ordered to testify in insider trading probe Critics say Congress falling short on pandemic preparedness MORE (R-N.C.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseFormer Georgia Sen. Max Cleland dies at 79 Framing our future beyond the climate crisis Pavlich: Democrats’ weaponization of the DOJ is back MORE(D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz, (D-Hawaii), as well as other pending legislation.

As we turn our attention to COP26 and the global response to the climate crisis, let’s remember that there is important work we can and must do right here in the United States. It will require dedicated action from scientists and policymakers, as well ordinary citizens from coasts to coast. The climate crisis is a critical priority in a time of national division. It should be a priority that unites all of us.

John F. Calvelli is executive vice president for public affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society and chair of the Government Affairs Committee of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

This piece has been updated.


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