Terrace farming, Nagarkot, Nepal, 2014, Esmar Abdul Hamid – flickr

By Jaramar Villarreal-Rosas, Jonathan Rhodes, Laura Sonter, Hugh Possingham, and Adrian Vogl.

Read the full paper here.

We can see the impacts of climate change all around us. For example, trees in the local park flowering weeks earlier than usual and experiencing the hottest summer on record. For some people, climate impacts have been catastrophic. Millions have lost their houses in unprecedented flood events or have been affected by out-of-season fires and draughts.

Using a case study of Nepal, we investigate how investments in nature can help protect people from the impacts of climate change. We developed environmental models to explore the outcomes of three different types of investment projects: (I) one that only considers the prevention of further climate change; (II) one that only considers current climate change impacts; and (III) one that considers current and future impacts of climate change.

We found that it is possible to achieve both prevention of further climate change and reductions in the current impacts on people through strategic investments in nature. For example, investing in restoring forests and grasslands and improving farm management practices in steep slopes can reduce carbon emissions, improve farming yields through reduced soil erosion, and decrease damage to hydropower infrastructure. The sum of the economic benefits of implementing these actions can exceed US$37 million!

Our study helps understand how government and private investor’s environmental decisions can impact people’s lives. Usually there is limited investment for environmental concerns in governments’ budgets, but our study indicates the locations and actions that would deliver the greatest benefits at the minimum costs. This information can help decision-makers choose better and cheaper alternatives to protect people and nature in the face of climate change.