Organic Farming Could Stop Global Climate Change
Organic soils such as those seen here could sequester 40% of global carbon emissions. Image source: Rodale Institute stock.
Global Climate Change Chaos
We've overshot sustainability. Three hundred fifty parts per million (350 ppm) is the recommended safe threshold for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Today, at 386 ppm, we're over the limit. There is evidence that we will see ice-free summer Arctic a hundred years before IPCC estimates and we have already seen flooding in Iowa's city that would never flood and massive fires in the American west. An ice-free Arctic full of dark water will absorb more heat and change global climate patterns. Burning forests emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide, producing a deeper greenhouse effect. To avoid further expensive climate chaos we must deploy the most creative and innovative technology in the world to rapidly pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And regenerative farming is it.
Hope in Organic Farming: Agricultural Carbon Capture and Sequestration
Even if we acted sustainably by stopping carbon emissions today, we would not be living on a healthy planet-- we need agriculture to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. The US Congress is considering a law to cap emissions of greenhouse gases, and to award credits for technologies that capture carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it safely. Write your representatives to tell them you support the most sophisticated carbon capture and sequestration method around: organic farming. Or better yet, call them up, and tell them that organic farming could pull forty
percent of global greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere -- each year. Our peer-reviewed research explains how farmers who are building soil organic carbon can removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at rates of 2 tons of CO2 per acre. As farmers and researchers continue to explore farming methods that build soil carbon, we expect they can sequester even more carbon.
Let's Hold Agriculture Accountable
The Senate's new climate bill caps our nation's greenhouse gas emissions, and begins rewarding people and organizations that reduce our impact on the climate system. Farmers can store atmospheric carbon dioxide in their soils as soil organic carbon, which is why the Senate climate bill must support farmers with carbon credits. Unfortunately, the current bill can not limit the amount of greenhouse gases that farmers can emit, even though agriculture is responsible for 15% of our national emissions. Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are mainly produced when chemical companies burn fossil fuels to produce synthetic fertilizers, and when distributors fly food around the world. We should give farmers credit for storing carbon in soil, and encourage them to decrease their emissions by transitioning to organic and regenerative methods. You can be part of this action against climate change when you tell your Senator to reward regenerative farmers.
The Real Farmers of the Future Will Build Soils
The most cutting edge forms of climate-friendly agriculture -- organic, regenerative, local, biodynamic -- don't produce greenhouse emissions the way industrial chemical farming's toxic inputs do. Rather, the real farmers of the future nurture their soils with innovative techniques such as advanced crop rotations, intercropping, soil amendments, and even animal grazing. These healthier soils are more resistant to dry and wet years, the frequencies of which are increasing as our climate transforms. The cutting-edge techniques these farmers use are continuously being improved and developed by farmer experience and supported by scientific research. Rather than giving carbon credits based on specific practices (which may become outdated or disproved) farmers should get credits based on the measured amounts of carbon they sequester in soil. A bill that rewards farmers for measured sequestration means farmers can work to increase soil carbon, rather than be limited by a specific law.
Pictured above: Soil samples managed organically, on left, and chemically, on right. The darker soil, managed organically, sequesters more carbon. Image credit: Rodale Institute.
We need to support technologies that measure soil carbon, in order to fairly credit farmers for the carbon they are storing in their soils. Rewarding farmers for measured carbon sequestration will solve other environmental problems while stopping global climate change. Soil rich in carbon holds water better, and builds increased resiliency for an uncertain climate.
Stopping climate chaos while increasing food security seems like a good deal to me. Please, write your Senator, and encourage a future that supports healthy soil growing healthy food for a healthy planet.
Guest contributor Tim La Salle is CEO of the Rodale Institute.