Elon Musk of Tesla has just offered $ 100 million to support the development of a technological solution to reduce atmospheric CO2. In doing so, he recognizes the climate crisis and tackles it. This must be worrying news for climate change deniers.
But let’s stay with the topic. Technology created the climate crisis by exacerbating the problems – technology took us from extraction to pollution.
Lowering CO2 is a natural process. It has occurred naturally for 3.8 billion years. Through photosynthesis, all living vegetation (trees, grasses, legumes, etc.) continuously withdraws CO2. Photosynthesis is the process by which light energy from the sun plus water absorbs atmospheric CO2 through the leaf surface – the plant converts the CO2 into simple sugars, which the plant uses to grow. In natural systems, this degradation is further promoted, as up to 40 percent of these simple sugars are released to symbiotic soil biota via the plant root system in order to obtain nutrients, water and disease protection that are difficult to access. At the same time, oxygen is released into the atmosphere. Part of the excess carbon is bound by biology in the deeper soil profile (e.g. mycorrhizal fungi). These soil biota form aggregates and humus and thus effectively increase the organic matter in the soil. The aggregate is the space between mineral particles that allows more water and oxygen storage capacity and housing for useful biology and glues (glomalin). Nutrients adhere to these adhesives and are solubilized so that they are available for plant nutrition and health.
In the last twenty years a new type of agriculture has appeared, regenerative agriculture (RegenAG). It has grown in popularity quickly. RegenAG advocates soil formation practices such as limited soil disturbance, conservation of land cover, conservation of plant diversity, and other practices to promote living roots throughout the growing season. The integration of cattle into the agricultural system is an important part of RegenAG. These practices not only increase soil carbon sequestration (CS), but also the bottom line.
According to the evaluation report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on agriculture (2007) 1) “… 89 percent of the technical reduction potential in the agricultural sector can be traced back to the carbon sequestration in the soil …” 1. RegenAg operating practices can fulfill this potential and possibly even surpass it. If we compare CS with other potentials, such as better placement of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, the placement of fertilizers can only account for two percent. 2. Dr. Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at Ohio State University and a member of the IPCC Agriculture Committee, says: “… that 3 billion tons of carbon can be captured on agricultural land worldwide …”. 3. Others believe that much more can be confiscated.
Carbon sequestration should not be confused with carbon capture and storage (CCS). CCS is an expensive technology ($ 700-800 / tonne CO2). Its potential is grossly overrated. It’s a technology that has nothing to do with agriculture.
In RegenAG companies, there is already a reduction in CO2. Small, medium and large farms around the world can use RegenAG practices and achieve significant carbon sequestration in the soil. RegenAG offers more ecological services; Better water holding capacity and better water filtration, exponential increase in diversity and number of useful biology, soil aggregation and thus stability and increased nutrient availability. It also mitigates the effects of another greenhouse gas, water vapor, by restoring the natural water cycle.
No expensive technology can keep up with RegenAG when it comes to breaking down CO2 from the atmosphere into bound carbon in the soil. It is harmful in the atmosphere. It has many advantages in the soil. Elon Musk should be encouraged to democratically share his wealth with all farmers who practice RegenAg or switch to RegenAg methods of farming. The health of our planet, all life on this blue planet, depends on it. This is human reconciliation with our environment!
This column is produced by the South Eastman Transition Initiative. Go to setimanitoba.org.