Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Only science can soothe Philip's heartburn

Philip Small, a soil scientist from Spokane, Washington USA posted this item on his blog in response to our launch. This item reminds us that there is little agreement in the field and we must have bullet-proof science to support our position.
This is despite the fact that we are heading into a political process because we are seeking to influence policy.

Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming

The Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming says that the best way to combat Global Warming is to encourage farmers to cultivate deep-rooted perennial grass species and crops that can lock vast amounts of carbon up in the soil.

A new farmers’ movement was launched this week in central western New South Wales. The Carbon Coalition was launched at the Central West Conservation Farmers Association Annual Conference in Wellington.

The Carbon Coalition aims to promote organic carbon contained in agricultural soils as a carbon sink to earn tradable credits on the greenhouse emissions market.

Farmers would then be paid up to AUS$3,000 per hectare for “sequestering” carbon in the soil. To date only forests have been recognised as tradable for carbon credits.
Maybe. I have a little heartburn over an expectation that the scientific community has promoted that leads us to believe that we can create a significant, persistent sink of carbon by using established farming and forestry approaches. The signal-to-noise ratio in applicable soil carbon sequestration data seems quite high low, especially in regards to a convincing ability to actually "lock in" the soil carbon sunk in the sink. I wouldn't feel so uncomfortable if there wasn't so much money at stake. Governments and carbon generating industries seem very eager to act with little in the way of verification. Landowners, ever strapped by a system seemingly stacked against the food and fiber producer, see a key tool for economic survival. Fundamental soil science and biology get relegated to the back seat while folks work out the international carbon credit and payment mechanisms.

At the front end, soil will naturally sequester more carbon as atmospheric carbon increases. Yet no one seems to talk about measuring performance against this moving baseline. At the back end, considering the millenial timescale relevant to climate change, persistence is a very real issue.

As mentioned, I have a little heartbun about carbon credit mechanisms, but not a huge amount at this point. Work in the area of ammending soil with bio-char and, separately or in combination with bio-char, promoting mycorrhyzal fungi to produce glomalin seem both very promising in terms of the fundamental science. Both are fairly recent discoveries with huge implications. Hopefully we have a few more rabbits to pull out of the living soil hat.

Tech Tags: soil science biology carbon sequestration climate_change global_warming

Kiely Family said...
Philip,__Thanks for blogging us. Your heartburn is justified if there is no science to support our position. We are only appealing for open minds to consider the findings coming out of work done at Kanzas, Montana and Ohio State Universities and our own CSIRO in Australia. What should give you heart burn is the lockstep acceptance of forest plantation as being secure ways of locking up carbon. There are circumstances in which they can release more than they retain.__Once again, thanks for blogging us.___Michael Kiely

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