Aerial view of timber cutting in Brazil.
Aerial view of timber cutting near Cachoeira Reservoir in Brazil. © Scott Warren

Our Science

Can the Earth Be Saved?

The answer is ‘yes’ with some big ‘ifs’. Here are 3 things we must do right now.

The science is in: We don’t have to accept doom and gloom for the Earth. Together, we can slow the dual crises of climate and biodiversity loss. This is a hopeful wake-up call, but only if we act with great urgency.

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Our planet faces the interconnected crises of rapid climate change and biodiversity loss. We have years, not decades, to address these existential threats. In published research from The Nature Conservancy and 12 peer organizations, science points us to a better path for building a more sustainable, more hopeful future for the Earth.

A future in which catastrophic climate change is kept at bay while we still power our developing world. A future in which we can feed 10 billion people worldwide and provide cleaner, more abundant drinking water while also protecting life-giving lands, lakes and rivers. A future in which nature’s wild heart still beats strong through healthy wildlife and magnificent landscapes while our cities are strengthened by harmony with nature.

Two people walk on a trail in the direction of steep mountains with a forest at the base.
A Path Forward New science shows a clear path we must take to prevent irreversible damage to the lands and waters that sustain us all. It’s not too late to choose a more sustainable future where nature and people thrive together. To reach it, we must transform the way we get our food, fish and energy right now. © Matt Champlin

A future in which people and nature thrive together. What we do between now and 2030 will determine whether we slow warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—the level scientists agree will avoid the worst impacts of climate change—while also conserving enough land and water to slow accelerated species loss. This vision of the future is achievable, and we must join together and put all our effort to make this vision a reality.

The 3 Things We Must Do

The stakes couldn’t be higher. If we follow the path that science shows us, we have the power to save nearly all habitat types across the world’s lands. That’s a huge win for wildlife, birds, plants, insects and the diversity of life that makes our natural world such a treasure.

Three icons. A cow with text 'fix agriculture', a fish with text 'stop overfishing', and wind turbines with text 'ramp up clean energy'.

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How can energy, agriculture, and fishing contribute to a better path to 2050?

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Urgent action is essential, and we must seize the unprecedented opportunities to change the course of history. The international community is preparing to make path-defining choices for the future, with once-in-a-lifetime agreements that have the power to stop catastrophic climate change and preserve biodiversity on Earth.

This must be the decade we save the planet. We must follow through on the promises, policies, and collaborative effort needed to protect nature from collapse.

Here are three ways we need to up-end ‘business as usual’ and act boldly to advance conservation.

Regenerative Agriculture Explained (2:53) How can regenerative food systems heal the planet and feed the world? We can produce food that doesn’t just avoid harm, but actively restores nature and reverses previous damage. Regenerative food systems can ensure we’re able to feed many generations to come. Here’s what this looks like.

1. Produce More Food on Less Land

Icon of South America with a mark over Brazil. It's next to a graphic of crops with an arrow pointing to ideal land.
Targeted agricultural expansion Identify areas where crops grow best to avoid destroying nature.

Problem:
Today’s version of large-scale agriculture is the biggest source of land conversion, drives deforestation that worsens climate change, uses 70% of the world’s freshwater supply and relies on fertilizer practices that pollute our waters. As the need to feed a billion more people increases, agricultural expansion could devastate habitats, release even more carbon into the atmosphere, and dry up rivers.

How to fix it:
Produce food where it’s most likely to thrive, which will use less water and less land.

How we’re taking action right now:
We’re analyzing satellite images and local yield potential to pinpoint where soy farming and cattle ranching can expand without destroying nature. This approach is especially vital in Brazil’s Cerrado region, where half of all natural habitat has already been converted to cropland and pasture. Cooperating with farmers on sustainable practices can help save what’s left of the Cerrado’s rich savanna.

A large school of Yellowstripe Scad swimming in a globe formation.
Fishing for More Data One of the biggest challenges in managing vital fisheries in developing countries is lack of data on which species are being caught and in what quantities. The Nature Conservancy is pioneering innovative technology and data tools that have the power to help bring back oceans teeming with fish. © Jeff Yonover

2. Eliminate Overfishing

Icon of Southeast Asia with a mark over Indonesia. It's next to a graphic of a boat with a fishing line pointing towards one fish species, while another fish species swims away.
Targeted fishing Use technology to catch only the right species.

Problem:
Overfishing and poor fisheries management is not only devastating to the fish species being pushed to the brink of collapse. It endangers food webs and ocean ecosystems by disrupting the balance of all sea life. And it threatens billions of people who rely on seafood as an important source of livelihood and animal protein. Without serious changes, 84% of the world’s fish stocks will be in peril in our lifetime.

How to fix it:
Refine our fishing methods to only take what the fish populations can tolerate now, so our oceans can be more abundant and healthier in the future.

How we’re taking action right now:
We’re making it fast, easy and affordable for fishers to use data to manage their catches more sustainably. Like image recognition software, FishFace technology we’re pioneering in Indonesia uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify fish species and track their numbers so fishers can avoid catching too many or the wrong kind.

Natural Climate Solutions Explained (3:01) In this video, it's the future, and we look back on how we saved the world with nature. In the 2020s, we learned that nature could pull 11 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere. This was a full third of the emission reductions we needed! So how did nature do all this?

3. Increase Clean Energy

Icon of the United States with a mark over Nevada. It's next to a graphic of mountains and forest next to cleared land with solar panels and wind turbines.
Targeted energy siting Use already degraded land for energy development.

Problem:
Climate change is the single most serious threat facing our planet today. We must reduce carbon emissions to, or below, levels agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement to prevent catastrophic harm. And with global energy demand expected to increase 56% over the next couple decades, it will be impossible to meet those emissions targets if we stick primarily with traditional fossil fuels.

How to fix it:
Shift 85% of the world’s energy supply to non-fossil fuel sources and invest in strategies like reforestation that capture carbon dioxide.

How we’re taking action right now:
We’re championing regulations that allow former mining lands to be repurposed for solar and wind energy. Tens of thousands of acres of degraded mine sites in Nevada’s Great Basin are now available for renewable energy development. By targeting already-disturbed land, new turbines and solar panels won’t need to destroy more natural habitat.

Solar panels in a large field at sunset.
Mining the Sun A single utility-scale solar facility can be as large as downtown San Francisco. To preserve fragile desert habitat, The Nature Conservancy's goal is to encourage the development of clean energy by repurposing already degraded former mine sites. © Dave Lauridsen for The Nature Conservancy

We truly do have the power to build a future in which nature and people can thrive together.

A more sustainable path is possible. But we need to rally individuals, governments, companies and communities around the world to take action with us over the next decade. When we’re at the table with leaders around the world, it gives us great strength to show how many people are with us.