An intergovernmental science-policy group of the United Nations found — and the United States agreed — that 1 million species are threatened with extinction, and that one factor in that decline was the decline of carbon in soil. Specifically, 5.6 gigatons of annual CO2 emissions are sequestered in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. That’s equivalent to 60 percent of global fossil fuel emission.
The finding released in a report May 6 also found that it is not too late to stop this decline, but action is needed immediately at the local, country, and global level. For soil, it proposed “sustainable agricultural practices that enhance soil quality, thereby improving productivity and other ecosystem functions and services such as carbon sequestration and water quality regulation.”
Bill Gates highlighted the importance of soil in a recent blog post arguing, “We should discuss soil as much as we talk about coal.” He notes that agriculture’s contribution to climate change (24 percent) is about the same as the generation of electricity (25 percent). What also might surprise you is that “there’s more carbon in soil than in the atmosphere and all plants combined.” Gates identifies several additional technical options he is backing, including developing crops, like wheat, with longer and denser roots so they can store more carbon.
Source: Deborah D. Stine, The Hill, May 6, 2019
Deborah D. Stine is president of Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy Analysis & Education, LLC based in Pittsburgh, Pa.