Three good reasons for helping ecosystems adapt to global warming

J.P. Leous

In a recent post I explained what natural resources adaptation is, and why it is a critical component of any complete strategy for addressing climate change. From your favorite critter or camping spot to the safety of our communities and health of generations to come, helping ecosystems remain resilient in a warming world is the other half of the climate equation (the first half being reducing dangerous heat-trapping pollution immediately).

There are some out there who worry that taking on such daunting and long-term challenges, however important, should play second fiddle to the pressing economic issues facing the country. “Let’s get on solid economic ground first, and then worry about our forests and wildlife” they say. This assertion is off base for many reasons, and I’ll touch on just three of them here:

  1. What happens to our natural resources directly affects us all. From clean air and water to pollinating our crops to supporting a diverse collection of industries, healthy natural resources are the backbone of our wellbeing. We ignore their health now at our peril, not in some distant future- but in real time.
  2. We are already behind the 8-ball, and the time to act is now. A recent GAO report highlights the need for inter-agency coordination to address climate change’s impacts on our communities and natural resources. An up-front investment in enhancing and improving ecosystem resilience is a far more efficient approach than waiting any longer. Any gardener will tell you that catching weeds early in the season pays dividends down the road. Similarly, addressing invasive species that have moved into an area due to more favorable climate changes before they get a foothold can save millions of dollars later on.
  3. In some ways, the naysayers are right: it is about the economy. The economy is the in the tank and we need more jobs. And we also know global warming is already here, affecting landscapes and communities across the country. But these two issues create an amazing opportunity: adaptation jobs! Stream bed repair, removing invasive species, coastline restoration and installing culverts are all examples of the types of projects needed in order to ensure nature can provide for us in a warming world — and these projects can protect and create jobs.

Check out this new policy brief for a description of how a typical forest road removal project can create a host of jobs. There are billions of dollars worth of adaptation projects across the country in need of funding — and thus plenty of jobs in communities across America that can help put cash in people’s pockets. No need to wait — helping our natural resources adapt to climate change can help jumpstart our economy today.