Most of us have experienced first-hand the impact of climate change, which, experts tells us, generally means more extreme storms, more precipitation, and rising temperatures. Already, there have been more than 18,000 disasters around the world in the past three decades, with a cost of more than $7 trillion in damage.
There are voices, louder around the recent Canadian federal election, that insist our best chance to address climate change is yet-to-be-conceived innovations.
But a recent paper published in Environment Research suggests that solutions to the impact of climate change already exist in nature, and that those should be our front-line defence. Not exclusively, says the paper’s lead researcher, Prashant Kumar, a professor at the University of Surrey, but primarily.
Kumar notes that responses to the more intense and frequent weather events due to climate change have focussed on the likelihood of an event as opposed to the impact.
“As a result,” he says, “structural approaches, such as physical engineered solutions can fail to protect us.” Conversely, using nature-based solutions, or NBS, “plays an important role in buffering the rising impacts of climate change…it has the potential to build resilience in environment.”
Kumar and his team identified that 56 per cent of nature-based solutions in place in Europe were used to combat flooding. Most, they noted were “hybrid” solutions, such as green roofs and rain gardens. But the most effective flood management included constructions such as small ponds for river flooding; in other words, exclusively nature-based solutions.
Cottagers might want to take note of this, says Kumar, who points to the value in maintaining wetlands and riparian forest as an effective way to protect from flooding, for instance.
The same research group published another paper in Science of the Total Environment, which concluded that nature-based solutions, such as wetlands, grasslands, and sand beaches can be “efficient, cost-effective, long-lasting, and sustainable approaches” to floods, droughts, and heat waves.
So why aren’t NBS implemented more often? Kumar blames the fragmentation of our response systems. “Policy/decision-makers tend to support the implementation of engineering measures for climate change adaptation instead of investing in nature-based solutions,” he says. “There’s lack of awareness of nature-based benefits to society,” including a “lack of knowledge in linking nature with health benefits.”
To fill that gap in knowledge, Kumar and his team are calling on politicians, policy-makers, and researchers around the world to move forward with nature-based solutions and to compare their effectiveness against others. In the meantime, it would be wise for cottagers to undertake their own NBS at our places on the lake, as it’s clear that further impacts from climate change are coming, and potential solutions are, literally, just outside.