Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Now Al Gore Gets It!

Al Gore recently testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urging Congress to act before the next round of global negotiations on climate change in December in Copenhagen, Denmark. In his list of fixes for global warming, former Vice President Gore included this: "The addition of sinks including those from soils, principally from farmlands and grazing lands with appropriate methodologies and accounting. Farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and around the world need to know that they can be part of the solution." Rattan Lal, who heads Ohio State University's Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, worries that agriculture could be left out of a US cap-and-trade bill. He liked Gore's comments, according to Successful Farming magazine: "I hope that somebody was listening," he said.

A native of India, Lal has spent his life working to improve soil fertility, in the U.S. and in developing nations suffering from soil degradation.

He has a global understanding of agriculture's potential to literally clean the planet's atmosphere of a big fraction of man-made carbon pollution.

It would be tragic -- perhaps fatal -- for the human race if Congress and international negotiators of the next global warming treaty ignore scientists like Lal.

They also should hear from farmers like Gale Lush in Nebraska and Kevin Struss in Kansas. Both are no-tillers who have sold carbon credits. They are true environmentalists, who know the ecology of their chunk of the planet.

If policy-makers don't pay attention to these experts on soil, efforts to combat global warming are likely to fail. There are some really bad ideas out there. A column in the New York Times last winter praised scientists at the Universities of Washington and California who want to capture carbon in crop waste, bale it up, and dump it in the ocean. That's an exceptionally stupid way to mine the fertility of soils.

Instead, Al Gore's common sense needs to be heard. Katy Ziegler Thomas, a lobbyist for National Farmers Union, is doing her part, sending his comments to members of Congress. "That is fantastic for us," she says. "We're working it hard."

You can help, too, by sending your own thoughts on capturing carbon to a senator or representative.

A cap-and-trade law that includes agriculture in the right way might result in payments that are bigger than your direct payments from the commodity program. You could brag to your liberal city cousins about carbon payments. And you could say you're a step ahead of Al Gore.

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