Increased carbon storage in soil could help reduce atmospheric carbon
A relatively small increase in soil carbon taken from the air could provide a significant reduction in atmospheric carbon, a report claims.
The Greening Earth Society report claims the soil carbon pool is 4.2 times the entire atmospheric pool, and 5.7 times the biotic pool. Thus, the report’s author, David E. Wojick, claims that a climate change policy could be implemented that would work by storing carbon in soil.
Agriculture as practised in the US and developed world stabilises or increases soil carbon levels and slows land degradation or reverses it, the report claims. Most of the 100Bn tons of carbon that has been lost from the soil through human activity could be returned to the soil, improving the soil in the process.
The Arlington, VA-based Greening Earth Society promotes the controversial view that “carbon dioxide is beneficial to humankind” and provides information on the “interdependent relationship between industrial growth, carbon dioxide and the future well-being of our planet.”
“Ten years ago reaction within the professional environmental community was either dismissive in rejecting the premise that plants feeding on carbon dioxide in the air would mitigate any climate change potential from human’s use of fossil fuels or else characterised the idea as third-grade science,” says Greening Earth Society president Fred Palmer. “Now this report shows how plants feeding on carbon dioxide in the air is the primary way to store carbon in soil, that improved agricultural practices are the keys to storing carbon in soil, and that soil carbon storage is probably the ultimate no-regrets climate-change policy.”
Wojick’s report, Carbon Storage In Soil: The Ultimate No-Regrets Policy?, explains how although the initial transformation of native soils results in major losses of CO2 to the atmosphere as soil carbon levels adjust to reduced carbon inputs and increased soil disturbance, eventually agriculture as practised in the US and elsewhere in the developed world increases agricultural productivity, slows land degradation or reverses it, and stabilises or increases soil carbon levels. Nevertheless, he says, soil carbon levels are still well below pre-agricultural levels.
Because soil is the “ultimate storehouse for carbon” according to Wojick, carbon dioxide taken out of the air by photosynthesis can be stored in the soil as either living organisms or in their residue.
Agricultural policies aimed at increasing soil carbon storage have potential for storing human-induced carbon emissions. Among the practices the report explores are soil erosion management, land conversion and restoration, intensification of prime agricultural cropland, planting of biofuels, improved fertiliser-use efficiency, and management of rice paddies. Wojick also sees potential for bio-engineering for soil carbon storage and social changes such as abandonment of slash-and-burn agriculture.
“The US already has several policy initiatives that have the secondary benefit of soil carbon storage,” Wojick explains. “However, the greatest potential for soil carbon storage lies in restoring degraded lands in tropical regions.”
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