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Over the decades, millions of acres have been drained and used for agriculture, forestry and the extraction of peat, a fuel used for heating and electrical energy. But when it was no longer profitable to dig out the peat, many of the areas were deserted, said Jozef Bednar, project manager for Wetlands International.

“Peatland ecosystems play a crucial role in global climate,” said Dr. Bednar, noting that they store several times more carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas than any other ecosystem. As such, he added, “the world’s peat bogs represent an important ‘carbon sink’ — a place where carbon dioxide is stored below ground and can’t escape into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming.”

Dr. Bednar offered one staggering number: Peatlands cover only 3 percent of the global total land area, but emit twice as much carbon dioxide as the world’s forests, which cover more than 30 percent. The peatlands drained by people are prone to fires and the accompanying smoke spreads long distances, creating serious health problems.

Wetlands International, along with its partners under the International Climate Initiative of the German government, began a major restoration of the peatlands after the extensive peat fires in the Moscow region in 2010. The goal is to return the peatlands to their original waterlogged state. With the help of experts, this is done by correctly blocking drainage ditches and channels so the peatlands’ water-storage capacity is re-established, Dr. Bednar said.

The project was awarded a United National “Momentum for Change” climate solutions award last year and, to date, about 100,000 acres of drained peatlands have been restored in Russia and the process can be replicated in other countries facing the same problem, he added.

Climate and climate change are complicated, and while schools are a good place to learn about it, not all teachers have the knowledge and resources to teach the topic. That’s why the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a partnership of federal agencies, education-focused nongovernmental organizations, teachers and scientists wrote “The Essential Principles of Climate Literacy,” a curriculum guide for teachers.

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