soil and climate change
Soil health and climate change are intrinsically linked. Soils are the greatest carbon sink, storing 3x more carbon than found in the atmosphere. Intensive farming is one of the most significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, and a move to sustainable farming practices (with sustainable soil management at the heart) would dramatically reduce human impact on the environment.
Soils also fundamentally support ecosystems such as forests that are at the heart of our natural environment’s ability to process greenhouse gases, whilst healthy soils’ role in tackling flood risk, drought effects and other challenging conditions are key to mitigating climate change impacts and ensuring continuing food security, health and wellbeing.
New systems and technologies are being explored to support the increased sequestration of carbon below ground, in order to reduce emissions and the onset and effects of climate change.
There is still a question mark around the effectiveness of carbon sequestration in terms of climate change mitigation: our job is to zero in on the role of soil with regards to the locking in of carbon and ensure the facts around this subject are widely understood.
The 4 per 1000 initiative, launched by France at Cop 21 in 2015, aims to render agriculture carbon neutral and sustainable via sequestration activities such as agroforestry and conservation agriculture, on the premise that increasing carbon sequestration in farmed soils by 0.4% per year will halt the increase of CO2 from human activities in the atmosphere.
This study from Rothamsted (2017) provides a counterargument, however, suggesting that the 4 per 1000 goal is unattainable in many situations, and questioning the impact soil is able to have in slowing the effects of climate change.