Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good News: Soil beats coal hands down for emissions

Two people who deserve special mention for their effective advocacy of The Soil Carbon Solution are Tony Lovell from Soil Carbon Australia and John White from Ignite Energy. John has welter of powerful facts in his arsenal, some of which we list here:

1. There is now more carbon in the atmosphere and in oceans from degraded landscape, namely soils, than has been emitted by the burning of fossil fuels since the the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
2. In the last 200-odd years, the amount of carbon lost from soils is estimated at around 500 billion tons, while the amount created by fossil fuel emissions is estimated at around 360 billion tons – making the focus on fossil fuels emissions as the predominant cause of climate change, arguably, misplaced.
3. In Australia, scientists have estimated that soil carbon lost since European settlement, by traditional grazing and cropping on the 500 million hectares of Australian rangelands and farmlands, could be as much as 150-200 billion tons. This is equivalent to around 300 years of Australia’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.
4. Meanwhile, the world’s forests and oceans currently take up about 40 per cent of annual human CO2 emissions, of around 30 billion tons a year.
5. A reason for this shortfall is that there are over three billion hectares of managed grazing and cropping lands on the planet, most of which are now well below their saturation soil carbon capacity.
6. These lands are now net emitters of greenhouse gases.
7. A 0.1 per cent increase in soil carbon in these agricultural lands could reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by around 4 ppm.
8. A 0.1 per cent increase in soil carbon on just 10 per cent of Australia’s cropping and grazing lands, each year, would offset all of Australia’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.
9. Professor Ross Garnaut has called biosequestration “potentially Australia’s most important contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases.”
10. The International Federation of Agricultural Producers says “economic incentives are needed to enable farmers to implement more sustainable agricultural practices. Carbon credit systems would reward farmers for their contribution to climate mitigation through carbon sequestering activities.”
11. In July 2009 the Portuguese government introduced a soil carbon offsets scheme based on dryland pasture improvement compliant with Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol. The Portuguese data shows that under sown perennial pasture soil organic matter increased by around 0.21 per cent per annum over a 10 year period.
12. There are now hundreds of farms in Australia that have converted to biological farming and fertilising systems, and planned grazing techniques that, while being more profitable, successfully and sustainably sequester CO2 in the soils as soil carbon.
13. Little has been done so far by our science institutes to study such success stories.
14. The Australian government should ... encourage every farmer in Australia to adopt farm practices that build soil carbon.
15. Biological carbon capture use and storage (Bio-CCS) needs to become common practice for Australia's agriculture industry. Not only would it mean a huge reduction in Australia's carbon emissions, it has the great advantage that it uses CO2 to deliver useful products and better environmental, employment and health outcomes, at very low-cost, with positive GDP impacts, and potentially at huge-scale in the near-term.

Bravo John White.

No comments: