By Helen D. Silver, Director of Policy, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
In September, members of the United Nations will convene a round of climate change negotiations. It’s not hard to guess what is on the table: greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Yet after almost three decades of effort, during which atmospheric carbon concentrations have only gone up, another meeting focused primarily if not exclusively on emissions reductions appears to hold little promise for success. While emissions reductions are of course essential and we must keep working to end the burning of fossil fuels, we also have to do something else. Something that brings new hope to addressing global warming. That something is soils.
Biodiversity for a Livable Climate (BLC) seeks to redirect the climate conversation to include large-scale carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration. Given that we know that healthy soils have the potential to sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide, indeed enough to potentially reverse climate change, why haven’t policies seized upon this simple, apparent opportunity? I have found the following questions helpful:
1. Have GHG emissions reduction efforts reduced emissions? Clearly not. Despite admirable attempts and sincere commitment, climate policies have resulted in little meaningful mitigation of the climate crisis. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have climbed to 400 parts per million (ppm), far above what most scientists agree is the upper bound of a safe level. Emissions continue rising annually, and all the while disruptions from climate change – in the form of rising temperatures, unpredictable water supplies, widespread drought and more violent storms – are being felt on every continent with ever-increasing frequency and intensity. Continue reading