How are the climate and nature emergencies linked?

How are the climate and nature emergencies linked?

Chalk stream at Winnall Moors © Martin de Retuerto

As the world’s governments prepare to head to Glasgow for COP26, the global climate summit, to discuss global action to tackle the crises, we hope to look closer to home and highlight the links between climate and nature emergencies on our doorstep and show you how we can help nature recover and tackle the climate emergency locally.

This week governments are gathering in China to attend the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) ahead of the UN Climate Summit that will be hosted in Glasgow in November. In China, Leaders are discussing the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, a set of principles, targets and actions to guide the countries across the world to restore nature. However, the nature emergency is not independent of the climate crisis - both are inherently interconnected and we cannot solve one without solving the other. In the run-up to COP26, we will be exploring the connections between the nature and climate emergencies and the solutions to tackle them.

The warming of our planet and the subsequent instability of our climate is undeniably being driven by human factors, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the release of other greenhouse gases, causing temperatures to rise far above natural levels. Parts of the world are already feeling the heat, with droughts and wildfires raging and other catastrophic events linked to our changing climate becoming commonplace. Here in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, the effects are creeping up on us, with increasingly erratic weather and rising sea levels beginning to affect daily life.  

We are also suffering from a nature emergency. The dramatic loss of wildlife may be felt emotionally rather than physically as populations of beloved species like swifts, hedgehogs and frogs disappear from our gardens. The drivers behind the crisis in nature are varied but include habitat loss, pollution, disease, invasive species and now climate change. This week, new research from the Natural History Museum revealed that nearly half of Britain’s biodiversity has gone since industrial revolution and is in the worst 10% globally, losing more wildlife than any other G7 country!

In Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, wildlife is faring no better than the rest of the country. Almost half of Hampshire’s most notable species are in decline, and in particular, we have seen a sharp decline in many farmland bird species which are hovering on the brink of extinction2

As these two crises unfurl around us, we look at how they are linked and why we cannot tackle one without the other.   

The climate crisis is now recognised as one of the greatest threats to nature, but its impacts are becoming increasingly severe, compounding existing losses in nature. Let’s take Hampshire’s iconic chalk streams as an example:  

Chalk stream at Winnall Moors © Martin de Retuerto

Chalk stream at Winnall Moors © Martin de Retuerto

Chalk streams are fed by aquifers, meaning the water is very pure and remains at a constant temperature all year. In a healthy landscape, chalk streams would be surrounded by floodplains, wet woodland, and meadow. The streams themselves are home to a unique and wonderful range of wildlife including trout, white-clawed crayfish and water voles – each playing an important role in the ecosystem. 

However, the introduction of invasive species like American mink and American crayfish have severely impacted wildlife in our chalk streams.  Meanwhile, humans are damaging chalk streams by extracting too much groundwater, causing channels to run dry and agricultural run-off is causing excess nitrates in many streams, altering the species that can survive and thrive there. All these factors link together, contributing to the nature emergency in our chalk streams.  

On top of that, the erratic weather caused by the climate crisis is often producing hotter summers and more droughts, meaning more water needs to be extracted from rivers, as reservoirs run dry. As extreme rain events increase, this is leading to flash flooding that damages and erodes banks, further impacting our chalk streams.  

In this way, one emergency feeds another, piling on the pressure in already-weakened habitats. Ecosystems which once locked away carbon, then become net emitters of CO2 once severely damaged, further contributing to the climate crisis – this is particularly true of peatlands, temperate or tropical rainforests, and mudflats. 

If we were to magically solve climate change tomorrow and reset carbon dioxide to pre-industrial levels, wildlife would still be in decline as the problems causing the nature emergency would remain. Likewise, if we managed to fix the factors leading to declining wildlife populations, climate change would still threaten them and unbalance ecosystems. We cannot solve one without solving the other.  

Luckily, there are simple, cost-effective solutions that help tackle the threats from both nature and climate emergencies. Nature-based solutions to climate change can restore broken ecosystems, allowing it to store more carbon and help nature to bounce back. A great example is seagrass meadows which captures carbon at rates faster than the rainforest and are important nursery and feeding grounds for many marine species. By restoring seagrass meadows, we can turn an area of seabed into a carbon sink and help wildlife flourish.  

This approach is the backbone of the Trust’s vision of a Wilder 2030.  

Team Wilder looks to work with people, businesses and politicians, to engage them with ways they can both help wildlife in their patch and lead a more sustainable lifestyle.  

Find out more about Team Wilder

While Wilder Land and Sea helps protect and restore habitats and join up fragmented pockets into a nature recovery network. Our aim is to see 30% of land and sea across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight protected and connected for wildlife. Much of this work also makes habitats healthier and therefore they can store more carbon while also becoming more resilient to the effects of climate change, safeguarding them for the future.

Reversing the trends of the past years and taking nature and our climate out of their current state of emergency won’t be easy but we do have the tools, knowledge and determination to start the process. 

COP26: Local action to tackle the global crises

In the run-up to Glasgow's COP26 in November, we will be exploring the relationship between the climate and nature crises and highlighting the solutions to tackle them. We know that local action will be key to tackling the twin crises globally, which is why we will be focussing on how you can help influence change locally – starting with your local councils. Keep an eye on our social media or sign up for our e-news to be the first to hear about our COP26 campaign plans!