The Soil Solution to Climate Change

January 6, 2020


$300 billion. That’s the money needed to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to fix global warming, according to United Nations climate scientists. It’s the gross domestic product of Chile, or the world’s military spending every 60 days.

The sum is not to fund green technologies or finance a moonshot solution to emissions, but to use simple, age-old practices to lock millions of tons of carbon back into an overlooked and over-exploited resource: the soil.

“We have lost the biological function of soils. We have got to reverse that,” said Barron J. Orr, lead scientist for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. “If we do it, we are turning the land into the big part of the solution for climate change.”

Rene Castro Salazar, an assistant director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said that of the 2 billion hectares (almost 5 billion acres) of land around the world that has been degraded by misuse, overgrazing, deforestation and other largely human factors, 900 million hectares could be restored.

Returning that land to pasture, food crops or trees would convert enough carbon into biomass to stabilize emissions of CO2, the biggest greenhouse gas, for 15-20 years, giving the world time to adopt carbon-neutral technologies.

“With political will and investment of about $300 billion, it is doable,” Castro Salazar said. We would be “using the least-cost options we have, while waiting for the technologies in energy and transportation to mature and be fully available in the market. It will stabilize the atmospheric changes, the fight against climate change, for 15-20 years. We very much need that.”

The heart of the idea is to tackle the growing problem of desertification — the degradation of dry land to the point where it can support little life. At least a third of the world’s land has been degraded to some extent, directly affecting the lives of 2 billion people, said Eduardo Mansur, director of the land and water division at the FAO.

Marginal lands are being stressed around the globe by the twin phenomena of accelerated climate change and a rate of population growth that could lift the global tally to almost 10 billion people by 2050, he said. Much of that growth is in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where land is already highly stressed.

“The idea is to put more carbon into the soil,” said Orr. “That’s not going to be a simple thing because of the natural conditions. But keeping the carbon in the soil and getting that natural vegetation, grazing land etc. thriving again — that’s the key.”

Last month, at a UN conference on desertification in New Delhi, 196 countries plus the European Union agreed to a declaration that each country would adopt measures needed to restore unproductive land by 2030. The UN team has used satellite imaging and other data to identify the 900 million hectares of degraded land that could be realistically restored. In many cases, the revitalized areas could benefit the local community and host country through increased food supply, tourism and other commercial uses.

35 Responses to “The Soil Solution to Climate Change”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    $40 per world capita seems way to expensive to save the planet for our kids 🙄

    The US alone spends more than twice what’s needed for its fecking war machinery every single year!

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Here’s Sir Chucky, acting like a troll again by posting anti-American BS that has no relevance to the topic at hand. Is he warming up for his part time job as a Russian Troll attempting to influence the 2020 election?

    удачи, comrade Чарльз! We’re watching you! Stick to climate change!

    • Sir Charles Says:

      You’re nothing but a filthy lying @rsehole, dumb old guy! Any piece of sh!t has more value than you.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Oh looky! Chucky follows the Trump model of viciously firing back with name-calling rather than saying anything of substance! No surprise.

        That’s what he did way back when I pointed out that a tally of his posts showed that they were likely coming from someone who was putting in an eight hour day in St. Petersburg rather than someone in Ireland.

        Keep it up, Chucky—-talk again about military spending and post pics of ICBMs on a thread about climate change and you’ll get more opportunities to show what a “filthy lying @rsehole” of a troll you really are.

        • Sir Charles Says:

          Still not able to take a hit when you start giving out 🙄

          Typical for a grumpy dumb old guy.

          Enough said.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Actually, YOU are the one taking the hits here, Chucky, and it’s a rather obvious and impotent tactic to try to turn that around on me. You’ve tried that before, though, so I guess that’s another chapter in that Russian Troll’s Handbook that you depend on so much. Bullshit is a typical fallback position for someone like you who has no substance to argue, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

            It’s especially weak when you use that same old pic that you dredged up somewhere that is not of me—-I’m much better looking than whoever he is.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      More “anti-American BS”…

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Yes, Chucky, just more anti-American BS from someone who can apparently do no more in the way of argument than reach into his handy file of “anti-American visuals” and post one—-are these handy visuals in Appendix A of the Russian Troll Handbook?

        Things are a bit more complicated than the immediate visual impact of that single graph—anyone with a brain only has to red down the list of countries and comparative emissions to begin really thinking about what it means for past, present, and future.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      Wanna eat a cake?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        No more meaningful than the bar graph you posted, Clucky. Does your brain EVER work on thoughts beyond the posting of a redundant link.

        1751 to 2016 us a VERY long time, Chucky—are you aware of the nuances that appear when you break that span into shorter intervals?

        And for those who need a subliminal reminder—–Chucky is a troll is a troll is a troll troll troll troll troll troll

      • dumboldguy Says:

        The Our World in Data link is terrific—-many excellent graphs, and many show those “nuances” that I mentioned, particularly when one examines data from 1850 to 1920. But I forgot, Clucky doesn’t do “analysis”, he just throws stuff out there without comment (or much understanding).

        • Sir Charles Says:

          Was that the time you spent in the army, moron?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Another inane and non-substantive reply from Clucky. No, I was never in “the army”. The United States Marine Corps owned my body from 1959 to 1965, as you would likely remember if you ever paid any attention to what other Crockers post.

            And thanks for proving my point with the unnecessary “moron”, you troll, troll, troll, troll, troll. (And isn’t it a little early for you to be working in St. Petersburg? It’s ~6 AM there)

          • Sir Charles Says:

            Russia seems to be your obsession, you wannabe ghostwriter for Trump tweets. I call you whatever I want to, because a filthy lying @rsehole like you doesn’t deserve any better. Period.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Once again Sir Clucky provides evidence that he is a Russian troll, by attempting to deflect and obfuscate, as evidenced by “Russia seems to be your obsession, you wannabe ghostwriter for Trump tweets”, yet another attempt to turn his perfidious mendacity back on me.

            I am not “obsessed with Russia”, but DO watch for deniers and trolls of any stripe that damage the integrity of Crock, one of my favorite sites. CLUCKY is the one here who wishes to be a “ghostwriter for Trump tweets”, although his lack of talent in using the English language will surely disqualify him.

            In another display of drunken confusion (or just stupidity), Clucky posts a clip of Putin and Trump singing a duet, presumably because of the display of nasty military might it contains. LOL. All it demonstrates is that Trump and Putin are singing from the same songbook, as is Clucky.

            I thought Clucky shot off all his toes the last time we had such an exchange, Did he miss some then? Are they now all gone after this latest display of incompetence? Has the FSB provided him with a prosthetic so that he doesn’t stumble around? (Too bad there are no “brain prosthetics” to help him overcome his stupidity).

            “I call you whatever I want to, because a filthy lying @rsehole like you doesn’t deserve any better. Period”, says Clucky, with outthrust chest while strutting around the barnyard like the demented rooster!

            I will leave it other Crockers to comment on who the “filthy lying @rsehole” is here. In the meantime, let me repeat that:

            Clucky is a Russian troll, Russian troll, Russian troll—-a perfidious and mendacious Russian troll and a filthy lying @rsehole, as he proves with nearly every post he makes. Underlined, period, exclamation point.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    50 easy hacks to change your life in 2020

    Sleep better, get fit, be kinder and improve your carbon footprint with these simple fixes

    • dumboldguy Says:

      And now we have some “positive” contributions from Chucky in an attempt to show that he’s a good guy after all. Too bad he’s rushing and not being careful—the one link is not to “50 easy hacks” and the other to the insect apocalypse is mostly irrelevant to the SOIL question supposedly under discussion. And then he “meanwhiles” back into more anti-Americanism.

      See a pattern, folks? Post lots of seemingly “good” stuff, then slip in the anti-American knife when people begin to think you’re OK and you have some credibility. I wonder what chapter that is in the Russian Troll’s Handbook?

      • Sir Charles Says:

        You’re just paranoid. No wonder your country spends that much on military. Too paranoid.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Another ill-thought out attempt from Chucky that says nothing.

          First, It is a non-sequitur to somehow try to connect the USA’s military spending with my alleged “paranoia”. Second, using the word PARANOID twice in an inane 14 word comment is almost laughable—-why didn’t you use it THREE or FOUR times in your simplistic and non-substantive attack on me.

          Which isn’t going too well—have you been drinking again ? I asked you the last time you became unhinged if your Troll bosses were aware of how badly you were losing that battle? Are they paying attention?—-will they shut you down as they did before?

          And let’s see if your little “repetition game” works. Hey folks, Chucky is a troll, a troll, a troll, a troll—-a troll is Chucky, Chucky, Chucky!

  4. Sir Charles Says:

    Meanwhile, Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning

    WASHINGTON — Federal agencies would no longer have to take climate change into account when they assess the environmental impacts of highways, pipelines and other major infrastructure projects, according to a Trump administration plan that would weaken the nation’s benchmark environmental law.

  5. redskylite Says:

    We have subjected our oceans (71% of our planet) to pollution, acidification, warming and plastic invasion, with scant regard, for many years now, while we’ve carved up our forests and land to suit our own needs. Now the rest of the planet, our land, must work. hard in trying to restore our once balanced habitat, and the priority is to convince all countries to cease burning coal for electricity. Not only will this improve health, save lives and encourage better plant growth in the localities, it will reduce our global carbon surplus.


    “Ditching coal in the US is saving lives, helping crops”

    Translating those numbers to apply to the remaining coal plants, Burney found that even for the conservative 25km estimate, they caused about 330,000 premature deaths and a loss of 10 billion bushels of crops over the decade she studied. For reference, she notes that the crop loss is roughly equivalent to a half-year’s production; it’s also equivalent to five percent of the total US harvests over that decade.

  6. redskylite Says:

    Restoring our oceans is going to be much harder.


    ‘Climate change: The devastation of Australia’s ocean
    As fires rage, the tragedy playing out underwater is much worse, but invisible to most. Darryl Fears looks at the devastation being caused in the climate crisis

    Nearly a tenth of the planet has already warmed 2C since the late 19th century, and the abrupt rise in temperature related to human activity has transformed parts of the Earth in radical ways.


  7. grindupbaker Says:

    So is that simple cheap soil fix the sort of thing that was discussed intensively for dozens of hours at the recent COP25 discussions ? Presumably all those persons flying there did discuss something to move the improvements forward. I don’t follow these sorts of events at all but I suppose one of you knows what decisions were made about the soil thing. What did the U.S. of American delegate at the COP25 discussions have to offer on the brilliant, obvious soil thing ?

  8. Tom Styles Says:

    fear the comment thread has been trashed.

    For what it’s worth, enhancing the carbon content of cultivated soils can readily be achieved through changes in agricultural practices without great economic sacrifice. Just the opposite in most regions. It is mainly a matter of education, though initial investment in retooling are often necessary. Loans repayed by increase in future production might accomplish much in that regard.

    Whatever additions to soil carbon come in the form of organic compounds, particularly complex humic acids and other sesquioxides, will increase both drought resistance and the effectiveness of applied fertilizers. Additions of elemental C (biochar) will likely do no harm in terms of productivity, and reduce atmospheric carbon by staying put for long periods, centuries perhaps. These are huge benefits and soil enrichment should proceed as described if for no other reasons!

    There is a problem however. Global warming itself will directly interfere with soil enrichment. Microbrial activity and simple oxidation break down the less resistant organics at increased rates as soil temperatures rise. This will be especially detrimental when soils that were previously frozen for months at a time no longer freeze.

    Models of carbon sequestration and fertility based on today’s climatic regime are certain to be inaccurate. By century’s end projections will probably be way off the mark. Nevertheless, growing stress on the world’s food supply will make any significant improvement fertility and drought resistance of cultivated soils all the more critical.

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