The first meter of soil contains as much carbon as the entire atmosphere

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Extreme soil degradation in Ethiopia

Restoring Global Soil Quality Is One Of The Best Things We Can Do For Climate Change

Little known climate change fact: Just the first meter of soil contains as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. And there’s potential to soak up much more.

Scientists have proposed all kinds of complicated—and probably dangerous—ways to take carbon pollution out of the atmosphere or mitigate its effect. But there’s actually a far simpler geo-engineering technique available to us: improving soil quality.

“Improving soil” doesn’t have quite the same ring as, say, pumping sulphur into the air to block out the sun. Yet soil is known to be highly effective at storing carbon, because the Earth has been doing it for millions of years. Just the first meter of soil contains 1,500 gigatons of organic carbon, or three times as much carbon as there is in the atmosphere. If we could restore more carbon to the world’s soil—it’s lost 50% to 70% of its carbon content since we started land cultivation—we could put a huge dent in the climate change problem, say researchers and campaigners.

Carbon sequestration is vital because even if we reduce the current level of CO2 emissions, we’re still left with all the carbon already in circulation. That in itself is enough to cause 1,000 years of climate change, studies show. Either we develop our ownmachines to do that, or we look to forests and oceans.

Read the full article: Fast Company


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.