With the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th president of the United States came a slew of executive orders, and perhaps most notably America’s reentry into the Paris Climate Accord. After the Obama administration joined the largest global cooperative agreement to limit the emission of dangerously climate-altering greenhouse gasses in 2015, the United States withdrew in 2017 under former President Donald Trump.
Villanova University Biology professor Dr. Samantha Chapman studies how “blue carbon” solutions, like the restoration of wetlands, can contribute to slowing the harmful impact of climate change on the planet. Dr. Chapman broke down the top three things the Biden administration must do to save the planet, since we are, as she puts it, “close to some scary tipping points.”
#1: Pressure Brazil’s President Bolsonaro to stop the devastation of the Amazon.
The Amazon Rainforest regulates our global climate. It is imperative that through diplomacy/aid, we incentivize developing countries to preserve their intact lands and biodiversity. We can’t do this without helping local communities incentivize the people living in these places to save these lands. Road building in forests is a huge cause of our planet’s downward slope.
#2: Invest in restoration of natural ecosystems.
We must invest resources into coastal wetlands and forests, here and abroad. USAID could be partially retooled in partnership with the United Stated Geological Survey (USGS), which already does this. These natural ecosystems will serve as natural climate solutions and be harbors for threatened species and nice places for humans to recreate. We must restore the opportunity for nature to re-invoke the necessary feedbacks that make the ecosystems work. Sometimes this involves complicated engineering, sometimes it is simpler and means giving nature space to restore. We’re trying both.
#3: Find ways to make people feel connected to land and nature—and value it.
This is a vague one and not one that I’m sure any administration can do. The pandemic has given me hope on this—I see so many more people out hiking, fishing, walking, and hanging out in parks. When time comes for voting on taxes, people have to remember that these state parks and preserves and even neighborhood parks cost money to staff and preserve. The U.S. has incredible land and nature and yet, in my experience, Americans value and understand it less than other countries. Some of that has to do with our frontier history. We can learn from Native Americans. Appointing Rep. Deb Haaland as the secretary of the interior is one good step the Biden administration has taken in this direction.
Dr. Chapman emphasizes that despite the uphill battle ahead, she remains hopeful. “Left to heal and helped to heal, the ecosystem processes that sustain our lives and those of the other amazing organisms on our planet can be restored,” she notes. “Good things are happening. They just need to happen at a much larger scale.”
To speak with Dr. Chapman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samantha Chapman, PhD Professor of Biology | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Samantha Chapman, PhD is an Associate Professor with expertise in global change in coastal ecosystems and invasive plant species.