We’re Resolved to Help Tackle Floods, Fire and Hurricanes with Nature-Based Solutions
By Jared Teutsch, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Conservation
Today, the overarching challenge affecting both human and natural communities all over the world is climate change, which will have huge impacts on how we interact with the places we live, work and thrive.
Climate change, caused by a near century of increased greenhouse gases, is already beginning to have adverse effects on places we care about. Changes in precipitation resulting in flooding and droughts, increasing wildfires and an ever-rising sea level are just some of the challenges we are beginning to face on a regular basis. Without immediate action, climate change has the potential to transform life on Earth as we know it. The good news is that many strategies currently exist and are underway to tackle climate change right here in Georgia. Some of these strategies include efforts for improved land management, coastal resiliency and other methods of climate adaptation.
The Nature Conservancy is a leader in building the resilience of natural areas in response to climate change so that they can continue to provide important risk reduction services to our local communities. We work with governments, scientists and communities to develop nature-based solutions that help both people and nature cope with the inevitable stresses and impacts of a changing planet. For example, The Nature Conservancy has been partnering with local, state and federal land managers for decades to use prescribed fires – intentionally ignited and carefully managed– to mimic natural, low-intensity fire. The correct use of fire can save money, protect lives and improve wildlife habitat. Prescribed fires can enhance community safety by reducing the buildup of dead wood and other debris that can contribute to unnaturally intense wildfires. Fire can also improve watershed conditions by thinning dense stands of trees that absorb a great deal of water and reduce the flow of springs and streams.
We’re also currently working with partners to help Camden County and other coastal communities understand and reduce their risk of storm surge, plan for flooding scenarios and learn about the value of nature-based solutions. More than 50 percent of Camden County’s land area is wetlands, and the county has experienced hurricane-related flooding and property damage. Together, we’re developing concepts for a multipurpose online tool to help county decision makers and community planners make smart growth decisions that adapt to the realities of extreme weather. We also continue to propel green infrastructure techniques like living shorelines which restore oyster habitat and protect salt marshes and shorelines that provide storm protection. These efforts have helped Georgia become more resilient in the face of climate change, but more work needs to be done to prepare our planet for a challenging future with an increased occurrence of natural disasters and a booming population.
Protecting and maintaining the health of the natural world will help reduce the negative impacts of climate change on human communities and support sustainable development efforts at the same time. Nature-based adaptation strategies should be an integral part of how we continue to tackle climate change. Preventing the most catastrophic effects of climate change also requires significant reductions in emissions from every sector of the world economy, starting today.
The Nature Conservancy’s work focuses on the global priorities of Lands, Water, Climate, Oceans, and Cities. Founded in Arlington, Virginia, in 1951, The Nature Conservancy now impacts conservation in 69 countries, including all 50 states here in the U.S. The Conservancy has over one million members, and has protected more than 119,000,000 acres of land, thousands of miles of rivers worldwide, and also operates more than 100 marine conservation projects globally. We work in the most critically important places so that we can have a lasting impact.
Every Georgian can have a role to play in addressing climate change. A key first step is speaking about the issue with those around you. Visit our webpage to learn how to overcome common conversation barriers to climate change and take the pledge to find opportunities to discuss the issue within your personal and professional networks.