How Otters are leading the fight against climate change - and, no, this is not just an excuse for a cute photo
Occasionally The Tank is forced to break off from repeatedly typing "Justin Bieber dreamboat" into Google and come up with some words on a novel carbon saving technology: one day it's a swish new eco-whatnot, the next a snazzy clean tech doo-dah. Sometimes, it can even be things you can't find at Ikea.
One thing you certainly cannot lay your hands on at Sweden's finest furniture boutique is a sea otter. But, if the connection hasn't become immediately apparent, it seems the cute and not so cuddly creatures (pace Terry Nutkins) are carbon-cutting machines.
This simply amazing discovery was stumbled upon by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who determined that sea otters eat sea urchins. But that's not the clever bit – no, those rascally sea urchins feed on kelp, see, which is simply great at storing carbon.
So the more otters there are, the fewer sea urchins, which allows the kelp population to flourish and absorb 12 times more carbon dioxide than it would without the sea otters. In fact, the chaps at UC Santa Cruz reckon the amount of carbon saved by the kelp is worth between $205m and $408m, which could pay for a fair few otter sanctuaries.
"At least on this part of the Earth, animals have quite a significant impact," said lead author of the new report Chris Wilmers. "Maybe we should be thinking about that."
Frankly Chris, it's all we can think about now. Especially given the heartless decision to consign thousands of badgers to history – who knows what kind of food-chain related damage that particularly reckless policy decision could do to our carbon budgets? Has anyone even done a carbon audit?
The Tank is now planning to phone Defra and recommend that they put their shotguns away and spend the badger-massacre budget on a nationwide rollout of sea otters.
After all, Squire Nimby might object to a wind farm on aesthetic grounds, but who could complain about a mass installation of one of the world's cutest animals? Perhaps green campaigners should forget sticking a decarbonisation commitment in the Energy Bill and lobby to have otters included. There's your complicated Electricity Market reforms solved.
We'll expect that knighthood in the post, then.
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