ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Climate change is top of mind after extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and North Carolina’s land trusts have a significant role to play.
The latest climate science – from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – underscores the importance of natural areas such as forests and working farmlands in the fight against climate change, especially in protecting those places that have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.
Elsea Brown, is director of the Blue Ridge Forever Coalition, a collective campaign led by local land trusts and national conservation organizations. The group has worked to protect more than 40,000 acres of land.
“We’re kind of in a unique position in that it’s our responsibility to steward and protect the natural areas that are going to allow humans to be more prepared for the effects that we are going to see,” she states.
Advocates hope climate solutions will include broad involvement across for-profit, nonprofit and civil sectors.
Without major changes, IPCC scientists warn that by the end of the century the average global temperature will be around 5.8 degrees warmer with the climbing carbon footprint.
For land trusts such as the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, climate change data has helped the organization plan with a long-term lens.
“Before we started using climate change data, we were looking at what land is most important to protect today,” says Michelle Pugliese, the conservancy’s land protection director.
Now, with the new data, Pugliese says the conservancy is looking at what land is most important to protect long into the future.
Scientists and advocates alike say conservation goes beyond partisan politics. Brown calls it a unifying cause.
“Conservation is really something that can bring people together,” she states. “We all care about having a healthy environment and having clean air and clean water and healthy food for ourselves and for our families. It’s really not something that belongs to one party or the other.”
This month, an international panel of scientists released its sixth report on climate change with data affirming that natural areas reduce our carbon footprint.