Monday, January 21, 2008

Carbon Farming and Climate Change

Scientists now believe that Carbon Farming can reduce CO2 in the atmosphere fast enough to avert the very worst consequences of Global Warming. (Footnote12)

The major cause of CO2 release from land management in farming is opening the soil to the air, by clearing native vegetation, by ploughing, by burning, and by over-grazing. (Footnote 12a) Substituting other methods for these practices prevents CO2 emissions. But these other methods are not only useful in cutting emissions. They can turn agricultural soil into a massive carbon sink, capable of sequestering millions of tonnes of carbon beneath the ground.

The IPCC, NASA, and the Australian Greenhouse Office agree: there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere to push the globe through the 2°C increase that will cause climate chaos. The only way to remove it is Photosynthesis. Plants and Trees. (Footnote 13) No other popular solution can do it – clean coal, nuclear power, solar and wind power, these can only avoid future emissions. And Forests, even if we planted enough today, cannot reach critical mass in less than 15-20 years. The Stern Report said we have 10 years in which to act, and NASA agrees. The only solution is agricultural soils. They already have critical mass and can start sequestering carbon instantly on a large scale.

A slight increase in soil carbon across Australia’s agricultural regions can sequester more than half our greenhouse gas emissions. A 0.1% increase in organic carbon across only 10% of Australia’s agricultural lands would sequester 387 million tonnes CO2. Australia’s emissions are projected to reach 603 million tonnes annually over 2008–12. (Soil C in the top 20 cm of
soil with a bulk density of 1.2 g/cm3 represents a 2.4 t/ha increase in soil OC which equates to 8.8 t/ha of CO2 sequestered.) (Footnote 14) A pasture cropping/time controlled grazing combination in Central West NSW recorded increase in soil carbon from 2% to 4% over 10 years (0.2%C/yr) (CSIRO and DPI project on “Winona”, Gulgong)

Soil carbon credits could underwrite the income of many farm families and enable them to offset their emissions from methane and other greenhouse gases. Australia’s soils are badly in need of restoration.(Footnote 15)



12 . Lal, Dr. Rattan, “Farming Carbon”, Soil & Tillage Research, (6 (2007); “soil Science and the Carbon Civilization”, SSSAJ Vol 71 No. 5 Sept-Oct 2007; “Soil Carbon Sequestration Impacts on Global Climate Change and Food Security”, Science, Vol 304, 11 June, 2004. Dr Lal is President of the American Soil Science Society.

13. In its recent draft report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Chair Dr Rajendra Pachauri said: “Twenty-first century anthropogenic (human) carbon dioxide emissions will contribute to warming and sea level rise for more than a millennium, due to the time scales for removal of this gas.” Britain’s Chief Scientist Sir David King has said: “Even if humanity were to stop emitting carbon dioxide today, temperatures will keep rising and the impacts keep changing for 25 years.” America’s senior ozone hole scientist, Dr Susan Solomon, senior scientist of the of the Global Monitoring Division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “The carbon dioxide that’s in our atmosphere today – even if we were to stop emitting it tomorrow – would live for many decades, centuries and beyond. A fraction of the carbon dioxide that we ve put into the atmosphere today due to human activity would still be there in 1,000 years.” The Australian Greenhouse Office, Department of the Environment and Heritage (“Climate Change Risk and Vulnerability”, 2006) said: “Much of the climate change likely to be observed over the next few decades will be driven by the action of greenhouse gases already accumulated in the atmosphere.”

14. Dr Christine Jones, Aggregate or aggravate? Creating soil carbon, YLAD Living Soils Seminars: Eurongilly - 14 February, Young - 15 February 2006

15. The Department of Environment and Climate Change, and the Central West Catchment Management Authority estimated that the soils in the Catchment can capture 183 million tonnes of Carbon by 2020 if farmers switch to “advanced farming practices”. The shift would result in a doubling of the soil carbon contained in paddocks.183 million tonnes of Carbon = 671 million tonnes CO2e (Carbon tonne x 3.67 = Carbon Dioxide tonne)
At $25/tonne = $16.75 billion dollars. At only $5/tonne = $3.35 billion dollars
$3.35 billion dollars ÷ 5500 farms* = $609,440 per farm
$600,000 ÷ 15 years** = $40,000/year (At $5/tonne, the low point.)

*In the Central West Catchment (ABS)
**2005-2020 – the average period for soils to saturate with carbon.

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