Amaury Frankl / Postdoctoral researcher

Ghent University – Research Fund Flanders /Physical Geography

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Due to climate change, weather extremes are becoming more frequent. This is having a large impact on the Earth’s physical environment, the environment we all live in. In California, the 2018 massive forest fires were followed by devastating mudflows, when a long-lasting drought was replaced by intensive rainfall. Warming oceans are intensifying the impact of hurricanes. In 2017, Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people, caused 40,000 landslides in Puerto Rico, and left the Puerto Rican state with an economic cost of $43 billion. Ice caps are melting, seemingly a bit faster every year, and in turn, tropical archipelagos are getting submerged by rising sea levels. But the impacts of global warming are not only occurring in faraway regions. In Belgium too, the physical environment is changing because of global warming. Coasts suffer from erosion, droughts deplete groundwater levels, winters are getting wetter (increasing flooding risk) and rainfall extremes are getting more frequent, increasing mudflow risks in hilly rural areas. What is the impact of all this? The loss of life, homes, income, way of living. With all this, the global cost of environmental hazards has skyrocketed. Rapid land degradation does not only mean that our landscapes are getting more hazardous, it also impairs the delivery of ecosystem services and goods globally. This leads to the loss of livelihoods, poverty and the loss of species. To reverse these trends, we have to curb climate change by tackling the primary cause and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero emissions. At the same time, we have to increase the resilience of our landscapes by building smart solutions with nature. Green infrastructure allows to stock carbon and strengthens biodiversity. This is desperately needed in our agricultural environments where even insects are being threatened with extinction, which in its’ turn is severely threatening our food supply. These nature-based solutions also allow mitigating the impacts of climate change on the physical environment. It can be as simple as an erosion-control hedge as pictured here. Policy makers should embrace the opportunities nature provides to limit the extent and the impact of climate change. How do I contribute? Small things help: a garden with native vegetation, reduce meat consumption by 80%, look out for train alternatives when travelling, and so on. Many hands make light work