The One Earth Science & Technology Initiative was established to answer fundamental questions about the world’s three greatest challenges — climate change, biodiversity loss, and food security:
- Can we still keep the world below 1.5˚C without geoengineering, and if so how?
- Where should we prioritize land and ocean conservation, restoration, and connectivity efforts?
- What is the strategy to feed 10 billion people by 2050 without further ecological damage?
These questions led to the launch of the One Earth science initiative. Through this initiative we hosted numerous convenings, challenged the world’s top experts to propose research agendas needed to answer these questions with the best science available, and funded a slate of over 30 projects with scientists and experts contributing from around the globe. One Earth became an independent initiative in 2019, establishing three interconnected research programs -- the OE Climate & Energy Model to achieve 1.5˚C; the “Global Safety Net” for conservation and restoration priorities, and a new food systems model called “Feeding 10 Billion.” We continue to fund research and development efforts related to these three areas, with the mission of elevating cutting-edge science and technological innovations to address the world’s greatest challenges.
CLIMATE & ENERGY
After two years of collaboration between 17 leading scientists at the University of Technology Sydney, the German Aerospace Center, and University of Melbourne’s Climate & Energy College, along with a portfolio of supporting grants, the One Earth Climate Model was released at the World Economic Forum in 2019. This state-of-the-art effort compiled the latest methodologies for estimating the contributions of each of the main energy sectors – power, building heat, transportation, and industry – as well as contributions from the land sector towards achieving decarbonization pathways compliant with 1.5˚C and 2˚C global targets. This detailed model includes all greenhouse gases and incorporates a new, more conservative carbon budget that factors in a buffer of approximately 100 GtCO2 for potential biosphere feedbacks (e.g. melting permafrost). The findings are outlined in the 500-page book Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals published by Springer Nature , which shows that a transition to 100% renewable energy by mid-century, with a major land conservation and restoration effort, is possible and necessary to stay below the 1.5 ̊C limit. It will not be easy, but the costs will be far less than the price of inaction. And there is plenty of capital available, with governments spending an estimated $4.7 trillion per year subsidizing the fossil fuel industries responsible for climate change . In 2020, a major paper will be published summarizing these findings and compiling for the first time regional targets in 5-year steps by sector to achieve both 1.5˚C and 2˚C climate goals. This publication will inform decisionmakers at all levels of government -- as well as NGOs, businesses and funders -- as they develop their own climate goals. To this end, we are supporting the development of several country-level 100% renewable energy roadmaps and land-use optimization scenarios.
Utilizing the latest advances in remote sensing and computer modeling, One Earth supported the development of a new mapping product called the “Global Safety Net” (GSN). This project overlaps numerous global-scale conservation priorities focusing on species conservation, ecologically intact lands, along with areas that need to be restored and connected to maximize biological diversity, water resources, and carbon sequestration. The first analysis (GSN1) will be published in 2020, led by RESOLVE in coordination with a team of conservation biologists and computer scientists. The net result is a map at 1 km resolution that shows the 50% of the terrestrial surface that needs to be protected to save biodiversity and stabilize our global climate system. It includes modeling of an extensive network of wildlife corridors that can link together all protected areas and other natural areas, enabling species to migrate as the world grows warmer. The analysis looks at the carbon storage value of this network as well as the overlap with vitally important indigenous lands. The data will be visualized on a new web application that presents for the first time, conservation targets by country and ecoregion.
The third pillar looks at food security. We believe that the conservation and restoration effort described above is key to the goal of providing nutrition for an anticipated population of 10 billion by mid-century. The good news is that we’re already producing more than enough food to feed 10B people. The bad news is that roughly one-half of the world’s agricultural land is currently used to grow livestock feed and fuel crops. In addition, roughly 30% of food yields are wasted each year. This means we’re only able to feed 7B people, leaving 1/10th of the population in hunger. As the planet warms, some regions will experience increasing heat and drought, while others will experience increased flooding. In both cases, agricultural lands will be strained, putting global food supplies at risk. Scientific literature is now emerging that offers numerous strategies to increase food productivity and nutrition on the current agricultural footprint of 2-3 billion hectares, not including rangelands . These include supporting smallholder farmers, decreasing chemical inputs, optimizing crop placement, converting feed and fuel croplands to food production, restoring degraded cropland, tree cropping, and agroecological practices that help rebuild soil health. A cutting-edge global food model is in development at the University of Minnesota. Additional pilot projects are being funded to look at the carbon sequestration potential of various regenerative agricultural practices.