This article explores peatlands as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative which mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.
This was a solution that I knew a bit about and I that I was aware could be instrumental in addressing climate change. I know quite a few major businesses are investigating this area for potential carbon offsets and interest in peatlands continues to rise.
Let’s turn to the numbers that have allowed peatlands to be recognised as the 13th most effective solution to address climate change. Peatlands could reduce CO2 emissions by 21.57 gigatons, but protect up to 1,230.38 gigatons of CO2 from being released. The cost and savings data were too variable to be determined so the authors have not put a figure on that for this solution. When we are talking about peatlands, we are talking about massive amounts of carbon emissions that can be prevented from being released.
The authors write about peatlands that: “they are neither solid ground nor water, but something in between. Peat is a thick, mucky, waterlogged substance made up of dead and decomposing plant matter.” This certainly is a fascinating ecosystem.
It is not quick to establish itself, rather: “it develops over hundreds, even thousands of years.”
The authors make clear why peatlands made it into the Drawdown top 20, because: “peat contains enormous amounts of carbon. Their typical carbon content is over 50 percent.”
The authors explain just how important peatlands are in combatting climate change:
“these unique ecosystems cover just 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store – twice that held by the world’s forests, at an estimated five hundred to six hundred gigatons”
The authors also make it clear that: “society is waking up to the invaluable role of peatlands as a carbon storehouse… so long as they stay wet.”
They explain that: “safeguarding them, through land preservation and fire prevention, is a prime opportunity to manage global greenhouse gases, and a cost-effective one by comparison.”
The problems occur: “when peat is exposed to the air, the carbon it contains gets oxidised into carbon dioxide.”
Despite its importance, the authors reveal that: “protection of peatlands is still in its infancy.”
Amazingly they go on to disclose that: “scientists… discovered a bog the size of England in a remote part of Congo-Brazzaville in 2014.”
The authors close with the following powerful statement:
“For millennia, peatlands have been sacred, ritual spaces – sometimes viewed as a gateway to the gods. A similar reverence today could ensure that peat’s layers of death and decomposition can continue to be a life-giving force.”
What you need to know
This article looked into peatlands as a climate change solution. It was based on the 2017 analysis of Project Drawdown which ranked peatland restoration and protection as the 13th most effective solution to reverse global warming.
I for one was blown away by the massive amounts of carbon that can be stored and prevented from being released by better management of peatlands.
It is up to businesses, governments and individuals worldwide to coalesce around an agenda to protect and restore this carbon intensive ecosystem.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
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