Fund for Climate Solutions

A unique funding source for a time of urgency

 
The Fund for Climate Solutions supports scientific research that drives solutions for controlling the climate crisis.

Launched in 2018, the Fund for Climate Solutions (FCS) is an internal, Center-wide granting program that funds our high-impact, leading edge science.

FCS provides a critical means to respond to time-sensitive opportunities, and to make seed investments which can lead to larger support from external sources and exponential progress toward climate solutions.

Installation of flux tower in Alaska Play

Twice a year, our principal investigators participate in an internal competitive awards process for FCS grant funding. These grants advance our mission of producing/developing science-based solutions to the climate crisis and help to:

  • extend or augment crucial research initiatives,
  • seed new projects that offer breakthrough policy or scientific impact
  • allow startup projects to get off the ground to show proof of concept work for outside funding opportunities.
  • enable immediate follow up on promising new research results without the delay of searching for additional funding.

Beyond these direct benefits to our mission, the Fund helps the Center to attract and retain the most inventive, dedicated researchers in the world.

To date we have raised $7.75M toward our $10M goal, and have awarded $4.66M in grants to fund 42 projects, through 8 rounds of funding.

Above: Rob Stenson and Anya Suslova sampling the Santuit River on Cape Cod.

photo by Alexander Nassikas

A key example of how FCS grants help expand the impact of innovative climate science is a grant that funded the first ground-based monitoring station in the Arctic to measure the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from thawing permafrost, demonstrating that some regions are becoming carbon sources in the winter. The initial results from this project led to a $2.4 million Moore Foundation grant for additional monitoring stations to cover much of the Arctic. This monitoring network will create critical ground-based data for reliable prediction of carbon emissions from permafrost thaw.

The Center is working with our partners at The Belfer Center at Harvard University to make sure that this critical science becomes part of climate policy going forward. The new calculations on permafrost emissions also need to be incorporated into the IPCC global carbon budget. The goal is to have this information available for the next Conference of the Parties (COP), the United Nation’s Annual Conference on Climate Change, so that countries will be inspired to commit to their most ambitious carbon budget goals to date.

stringing cables on the flux tower
installing a flux tower in Alaska

Above: Paul Lefebvre (left) and Sarah Ludwig (right) installing a flux tower in Alaska, October 2019.

photos by Chris Linder

The new information from our permafrost research has demonstrated that the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) budget significantly understates global carbon emissions, and reveals that the world has significantly less time to lower emissions before the global system reaches a critical tipping point.

Below are the most recently awarded projects of the Summer 2021 grant cycle.

Project leads: Dr. Wayne Walker and Dr. Glenn Bush

As both public and private sectors commit to more ambitious emissions reduction targets, forest carbon crediting has the potential to be an important market-based mechanism for mitigating climate change while protecting global forests. Forest carbon credits are currently uncertain investments due to confusion about evolving standards, and the perceived risk is exacerbated by a lack of transparency. This project seeks to promote market confidence by delivering the first ever investment-oriented forest carbon rating standard (FCRS). In partnership with Wellington Management, the FCRS will define the operational architecture for a global rating system similar to Moody’s bond ratings. By incorporating key metrics of forest carbon quality and ecological integrity while accounting for governance- and climate-driven risk, the FCRS has the potential to aid in unlocking the billions of dollars in investment needed to scale the global forest carbon market.

Project leads: Dr. Jennifer Watts and Dr. Jonathan Sanderman

Rangelands (which include grassland, shrubland and pasture) cover nearly a third of U.S. land area and offer a large capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in soil. Studies suggest that capacity could be increased significantly, and this is a high-priority goal for conservation and climate mitigation efforts. However, integration of rangelands into emerging carbon markets is hampered by a lack of practical methods for quantifying and monitoring carbon in rangeland systems over large regions. Our team at Woodwell is developing a cutting-edge approach for comprehensive spatial and temporal carbon monitoring in rangeland systems. This system will provide rangeland managers with information needed to quantify carbon sequestration within landscapes and make informed decisions about land use; it will also provide a platform capable of supporting carbon sequestration verification requirements for carbon markets—all at no cost to range managers.

Project leads: Dr Andréa D. de Almeida Castanho and Dr. Richard (Skee) Houghton

It is critical we understand the future capacity of forests to absorb and store carbon. To date, our understanding has been based to a large extent on the estimates of carbon emissions from Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF), calculated by the so-called bookkeeping model. Several recent lines of evidence suggest that the growth curves used in the bookkeeping model to simulate forest growth may be biased toward rapid forest regrowth and low carbon accumulation after 100 years of growth. This project will examine the effects of modifying forest growth curves on estimated emissions, with the potential to suggest ways of refining the bookkeeping model and improving our understanding of the land carbon sink.

Project lead: Dr. Jonathan Sanderman

Andhra Pradesh’s Community-Managed Natural Farming (CMNF) program is one of the largest experiments in agroecology in the world and holds lessons for regenerative agriculture work worldwide. CMNF, previously referred to as zero budget natural farming, is a method of regenerative agriculture that is promoted as a key initiative for improving human, soil, and environmental health, climate resilience and mitigation, and rural economic development. Sound, independent science is critical to understand the promise and limitations of CMNF. This project includes a five-year-long longitudinal impact assessment comparing CMNF and conventional farming across three sustainability dimensions, as well as a climate risk assessment for agriculture in Andhra Pradesh (India), and efforts to develop and disseminate replicable approaches for scaling up CMNF. This work has the potential to demonstrate the effectiveness of natural farming, and significantly influence the growth and adoption of regenerative agriculture across the globe.

Project lead: Dr. Foster Brown

Southwestern Amazonia, a region with about a million square kilometers, is one of the most biologically and culturally diverse regions on the planet. It has become a key region where conflicts of development and conservation are accentuated, and where science can make a difference in land use trajectories—but only if that science is available to stakeholders and policymakers. This funding will enable open access publication of four articles that provide suggestions for public policy ranging from changing the Amazonian development model, to simplifying identification of illegal logging and deforestation, to describing how new technologies and collaboration resulted in an air quality network that could serve as a model for others.

Below: Community members assist Polaris Project student Derris Funmaker (left) and Dr. Sue Natali (right) with permafrost sampling.

To learn more about the Fund for Climate Solutions and become involved, contact Leslie Kolterman, Chief Philanthropic Officer, at lkolterman@woodwellclimate.org.