What the birds tell us about the climate can unite a polarized political system

What the birds tell us about the climate can unite a polarized political system

As we emerge from the last election cycle, it may seem that every issue in American politics has become polarized. But as our newly elected leaders take office, we have a critical opportunity to build consensus on one of the most pressing issues facing us today: protecting our planet from growing climate threats.

The truth is that an overwhelming majority of Americans recognize climate change as a real threat. More than 70% of Americans of all parties believe global warming is happening and will harm future generations. Seventy-two percent of

Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 77% support funding renewable energy research. Among Republicans in particular, 89% support nature-based solutions like planting trees to absorb carbon emissions, and 70% support giving a business tax credit to expand catching and harvesting. carbon storage.

Another unifying factor is the love of nature. We are all deeply dependent on clean water, clean air, healthy natural spaces and a healthy climate. Among our members, it’s this shared reliance that unites people from all political backgrounds in a common cause to protect our natural spaces and ensure our communities remain hospitable to wildlife – and to us, too.

The connection between people and nature is not only important for the places we call home. Our local actions have a global echo. Most birds are migratory, maintaining complex and critical connections with natural and urban spaces over thousands of kilometers each year. If migratory birds are to thrive in our neighborhood parks for one season, we also need to conserve the places they depend on for another season. By studying how the climate affects their habitats, birds tell us a lot about how the climate affects us all.

And what they tell us is a warning to everyone, regardless of your political affiliation. Bird populations are in steep decline. We have lost 3 billion birds over the past 50 years. And when the birds are in trouble, it means the people are in trouble too. In 2021, the National Audubon Society found that the most important places for birds often overlap with natural areas that make the planet habitable for all of us. These priority areas – including forests, grasslands, wetlands and even city green spaces – have the potential to store twice as much carbon and add immeasurable value to bird and human life when are managed strategically.

These landscapes are excellent sources of nature-based solutions – sustainable methods to address environmental and socio-economic challenges. These can include managing landscapes such as marshes and barrier islands to act as natural infrastructure against flooding and sea level rise, and restoring land and water to minimize negative impacts. human activities. These natural solutions protect communities and wildlife habitat from storms. President Biden made a point of prioritizing them at the recent COP27 global climate conference in Egypt, and they must be a centerpiece of bipartisan climate action in the United States going forward.

Likewise, the transition to renewable energy should be widely embraced as a vital, bipartisan step in the fight against climate change. Renewable energies – such as solar, wind and geothermal power – not only reduce emissions, but also enhance national and energy security by reducing local pollution and decreasing dependence on foreign resources. This is one of the most important ways to reduce emissions that put millions of birds at risk. This is precisely why we work closely with government agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other key stakeholders to promote the development of clean energy properly located and harnessed to minimize and mitigate impacts on birds, other wildlife and communities, especially those disproportionately affected. by climate change.

Birds are not bound by geopolitical borders – or regional and political divides – so meaningful action to protect them must be on a hemispheric scale. It is essential that conservation work includes international groups and community organizations to support nature-based solutions in the Western Hemisphere and protect the places birds need along their migration routes.

The urgency of a significant mobilization for the climate grows every day. Regardless of our personal policies, we all bear the burden of climate change. When we listen to what the birds tell us, they lead us to solutions. We seek consensus in tangible, nature-based action because we know we have to. In our climate action, we are inspired by the Cerulean Warblers that breed in Appalachia and the Northern Cardinals that forage in the forests of New England. They are blue birds and red birds living in red and blue states, which can only thrive if their habitats remain green.

Elizabeth Gray is CEO of the National Audubon Society.

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