Monday, January 21, 2008

Soil Carbon, Climate Change, and Urgency

Given the fact that there is a critical amount of CO2e already in our atmosphere, soil carbon has, by an accident of history, a significant and urgent role to play in shaping the world community’s response to the Climate Crisis. It is the only solution with the capacity and capability to make a meaningful difference immediately in the likely severity of the consequences of CO2 overload. PCC economists and scientists agree:

"Unlike many other technologies to offset fossil fuel emissions, land management for soil C sequestration can be implemented immediately, provided there are incentives to do so.” - Professor Bruce A. McCarl, Climate Agricultural Economist, Texas A&M University (IPCC)

“C Sequestration in soil and vegetation is a bridge to the future. It buys us time while alternatives to fossil fuel take effect.” - Dr Rattan Lal, Director, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (IPCC)

Soil sequestration is the most cost effective mitigation strategy for the first half of the 21st century. - Battelle, Global Energy Technology Strategy: Addressing Carbon Change, Washington, 2000

“Increasing terrestrial carbon stocks is attractive because it can potentially offset a major fraction of emissions and serve as a bridge over an interim period, allowing for development of other low-CO2 and CO2-free technologies.”- Battelle, US Climate Change Technology Program Strategic Plan, Washington, 2006

"Terrestrial C sequestration has immediate application in climate change mitigation due to its availability and relatively low cost." - Professor Charles Rice, Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University, Director of the Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases. Dr. Rice is recognized as one of the leading soil microbiologists in the United States.

“Terrestrial sequestration is here and now. It’s user friendly. It’s easy to do. It can play a critical role in the early stages of our response, ahead of other methods [forestry, geologic burial].” - Dr. John Antle, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University, Technical Leader, Economics, BigSky Carbon Sequestration Partnership

Neither “Clean Coal” nor Solar Energy nor Wind Turbines nor Lightbulbs can remove existing atmospheric overload of CO2. Only the process of photosynthesis through vegetation and soil can absorb existing emissions. Forests do not have the capability to do it.16 Even if there was sufficient land suitable for planting forests, the world does not have the time or the resources available to plant them. (Footnote 16)

Only SOILS can sequester enough CO2 in the time we have left (10 years according to the Stern Report).

Agricultural soils cover 60% of the earth’s surface. A simple change in land management, from carbon mining to carbon farming, could start the process of absorbing the existing CO2 “overload” immediately. To do so the world’s policy makers must come to terms with the soil carbon solution immediately.



16. The UK Department of Energy estimates that to offset the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions would require the planting of a new area of tropical forest about 1.5 times the size of the UK. World Rainforest Movement claims that to compensate
for the eight gigatonnes of carbon the US currently releases into the atmosphere every year would require planting four times the area of the United States with trees, never letting these trees die and decay thereafter.

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