Natural climate solutions

Bronson W. Griscom, Justin Adams, Peter W. Ellis, Richard A. Houghton, Guy Lomax, Daniela A. Miteva, William H. Schlesinger, David Shoch, Juha V. Siikamäki, Pete Smith, Peter Woodbury, Chris Zganjar, Allen Blackman, João Campari, Richard T. Conant, Christopher Delgado, Patricia Elias, Trisha Gopalakrishna, Marisa R. Hamsik, Mario HerreroJoseph Kiesecker, Emily Landis, Lars Laestadius, Sara M. Leavitt, Susan Minnemeyer, Stephen Polasky, Peter Potapov, Francis E. Putz, Jonathan Sanderman, Marcel Silvius, Eva Wollenberg, Joe Fargione

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Better stewardship of land to is needed to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goal of holding warming below 2°C; however, confusion persists about the specific set of land stewardship options available and their mitigation potential. To address this, we identify and quantify “natural climate solutions” (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. We find that the maximum potential of NCS – when constrained by food security, fiber security, and biodiversity conservation – is 23.8 PgCO2e yr-1 (95% CI 20.3 - 37.4). This is ≥30% higher than prior estimates, which did not include the full range of options and safeguards considered here. About half of this maximum (11.3 PgCO2e yr-1) represents cost effective climate mitigation, assuming the social cost of CO2 pollution is ≥100 USD MgCO2e -1 by 2030. Natural climate solutions can provide 37% of cost effective CO2 mitigation needed through 2030 for a >66% chance of holding warming below 2°C. One-third of this cost effective NCS mitigation can be delivered at or below 10 USD MgCO2 -1. Most NCS actions – if effectively implemented – also offer water filtration, flood buffering, soil health, biodiversity habitat, and enhanced climate resilience. Work remains to better constrain uncertainty of NCS mitigation estimates. Nevertheless, existing knowledge reported here provides a robust basis for immediate global action to improve ecosystem stewardship as a major solution to climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11645-11650
Number of pages6
Issue number44
Early online date16 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Our thanks for inputs by L. Almond, A. Baccini, A. Bowman, S. CookPatton,
J. Evans, K. Holl, R. Lalasz, A. Nassikas, M. Spalding, M. Wolosin,
and expert elicitation respondents. Our thanks for datasets developed by
the Hansen lab and the NESCent grasslands working group (C. Lehmann, D.
Griffith, T. M. Anderson, D. J. Beerling, W. Bond, E. Denton, E. Edwards, E.
Forrestel, D. Fox, W. Hoffmann, R. Hyde, T. Kluyver, L. Mucina, B. Passey, S.
Pau, J. Ratnam, N. Salamin, B. Santini, K. Simpson, M. Smith, B. Spriggs, C. Still,
C. Strömberg, and C. P. Osborne). This study was made possible by funding
from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Woodbury was supported in
part by USDA-NIFA Project 2011-67003-30205

Data deposition: A global spatial dataset of reforestation opportunities has been deposited on Zenodo (

This article contains supporting information online at


  • climate mitigation
  • forests
  • agriculture
  • wetlands
  • ecosystem services


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