Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg and author Margaret Atwood have joined a group of international scientists and activists calling on governments to support natural solutions to climate change.
The group — which includes artists, authors, musicians, and activists like Naomi Klein, Philip Pullman, and Brian Eno — published a letter in the Guardian on Wednesday, saying that forests and coastlines need to be restored to tackle rising carbon dioxide levels and preserve the natural habitats of wildlife.
The activists say it's a "thrilling but neglected approach to averting climate chaos while defending the living world."
The idea behind the campaign is that by encouraging the restoration of forests and other natural ecosystems, the increase in plant life will draw carbon dioxide out of the air — a vital component of keeping the atmosphere cooler.
“The world faces two existential crises, developing with terrifying speed: climate breakdown and ecological breakdown," the letter reads. "Neither is being addressed with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems from spiralling into collapse.”
As well as Thunberg, the 16-year-old now famous for spearheading the global school strikes, signatories also include journalist George Monbiot, campaigners Bill McKibben and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives.
Climate scientists and experts in reforestation, as well as the executive director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, and the CEO of Friends of the Earth, Craig Bennett, have also signed in support of the campaign.
A video accompanying their letter explains more about why their solution is needed. The narrator explains that we’ve left it too late to rely on greener economies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to truly tackle climate change.
“When living systems are allowed to recover they can suck carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it up," the video explains, adding that this provides a simpler and less costly solution compared to other alternatives.
The plans comes with the benefit of preserving species and helping to slow down the Earth’s sixth period of mass extinction that scientists say we're living in right now. A major report from the World Wildlife Foundation in 2018, for example, found that the size of wildlife populations had decreased by 60% globally between 1970 and 2014.
Peatlands, salt marshes, and seabeds are all natural ecosystems that store carbon, as well as forests, the campaigners point out.
The reintroduction of wild animals whose numbers have been reduced would help protect these natural areas too – all contributing to the storage of greenhouses gases. A website, 'Natural Climate Solutions' launched on Wednesday, which explains more about the science behind the campaign as well as the campaign goals.
Speaking about the launch, Monbiot told the Guardian: “Our aim is simple: to catalyse global enthusiasm for drawing down carbon by restoring ecosystems."
You can read the letter in full here.