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Addressing Agriculture to Halt Climate Change

Mon 29th Apr, 2019 - 10:43am by Emma Cockrell

The following article by Dr Mercola suggests that addressing agricultural practices may provide the way out of the devastating impacts of climate change…

Mercola writes:

The global impacts of global pollution are so terrifyingly vast and all-encompassing that fully comprehending the potential consequences can prove difficult for the human mind.

If it continues unchecked, scientists warn1 of an increase in extreme weather including rising sea levels, intensified and more frequent wildfires, devastating flooding, stronger hurricanes and prolonged droughts — all of which are projected to have colossal and costly impacts on public health, agriculture, politics, economic growth and human migration.

But there’s good news: Humans have the power to stop, and potentially reverse pollution, but only if appropriate action is taken immediately, and on a global scale.

While most people think of the burning of fossil fuels as the primary driver of pollution, data point to industrial agriculture as the greatest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. An estimated 44% to 57% of all greenhouse gases come from the global food system. This includes deforestation, agriculture, food waste and food processing, packaging, refrigeration and transportation.2

So, while some argue that, in addition to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to 100% renewable energy, implementing new and costly carbon-capturing technology3 is the solution, mounting evidence points to a less costly and more natural solution: Harnessing the power of Mother Nature.

This includes organic regenerative agriculture,4 which promotes soil health, biodiversity, soil carbon sequestration and large-scale ecosystem restoration such as reforestation and the restoration of peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes and other important ecosystem habitats capable of drawing down and storing excess atmospheric carbon.5

Climate Columnist: ‘The Main Driver of Future Warming Is What We Do Now’

What happens on Earth within the next century in regard to climate change depends on the action humans do or don’t take, said David Wallace-Wells, deputy editor and climate columnist for New York magazine, in a recent interview on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Wallace-Wells, who wrote “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming,”6 says we tend to think about climate change as something that began centuries ago during the Industrial Revolution, but the truth is that in the history of mankind, 50% of all the carbon we’ve released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels has occurred within the last 30 years…

100 Times Faster Than Ever Before

There are three major misconceptions regarding climate change: The first is the speed at which it is occurring; the second is the scope; and the third is the severity, says Wallace-Wells. It’s widely thought that climate change is something that happens really slowly over time — a phenomenon that, if anything, would likely affect our children or grandchildren, and that the world would have decades or even centuries to solve, he says.

But again, according to research, half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions have been released into the atmosphere since 1988 — the same year the dangers these emissions pose to the climate became widely known.14 Wallace-Wells drives this point home in the Hayes interview when he said:

“Scientific breakthroughs happen in the mid-19th century, but they weren’t widely known. But by 1990, when the U.N. is establishing the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], the scientific community knew exactly what was going on — was advertising it at full volume — and we have not changed course at all.

In fact, we have done much more damage. Each of those years are the highest years of emissions on record. So, things are happening really, really quickly. We’re doing that damage in real time. And that has a lot of complicated lessons for how we go forward, how we think about responsibility.”

Reversing Course Naturally Through Mother Nature

While all of this information may sound (and is) overwhelmingly terrifying, the silver lining is that it’s often fear that invokes action. We should be scared, says Wallace-Wells, and we should take the threat of climate change seriously. So, what is it that we, as a human race, can do right now to address climate change?

Wallace-Wells advocates for the need to develop infrastructure that can capture carbon. Where we store that carbon is where things get tricky, he says. But what if Mother Nature, if properly utilised, can do the work for us?

Andre Leu, international director of Regeneration International and former president of IFOAM Organics International, says the solution to managing the climate now is through regenerating soil health.

Soils are the greatest carbon sink next to the oceans. Soil can hold more carbon than the entire atmosphere.15 But the problem is that industrial agriculture, characterised by destructive plowing, overgrazing and the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, has severely degraded our soils and their ability to efficiently capture carbon. In some heavily farmed areas, these practices have resulted in the estimated loss of 80% of soil carbon.

Interestingly, the cause of this — the “Green Revolution” — has a name that’s actually an ironic misnomer, as this type of destructive agriculture is literally killing our Earth, which is a far cry from being a “green” way to live. Topsoil destruction, erosion and desertification are all exacerbated by industrial practices such as tilling, chemical use, mono-cropping and not using cover crops.

Maria Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned that at the current rate of topsoil degradation, all the world’s topsoil will be gone in less than 60 years!16

Transitioning to Organic Regenerative Agriculture

Fortunately, organic regenerative agriculture offers the tools to regenerate the health of our soils and their ability to draw down and store excess carbon. It gets even better. According to Leu, transitioning just 10% to 20% of the world’s agricultural production to organic regenerative systems can sequester enough carbon to not only stop, but also reverse climate change. Leu states:

“Agricultural systems that recycle organic matter and use crop rotations can increase the levels of SOC [soil organic carbon]. This is achieved through techniques such as longer rotations, ground covers, cover crops, green manures, legumes, compost, organic mulches, biochar, perennials, agro-forestry, agroecological biodiversity and livestock on pasture using sustainable grazing systems such as holistic grazing.

These systems are starting to come under the heading of ‘regenerative agriculture’ because they regenerate SOC. Regenerative agriculture can change agriculture from being a major contributor to climate change to becoming a major solution. The widespread adoption of these systems should be made the highest priority by farmers, ranchers, governments, international organizations, industry and climate change organizations.”

So, while climate change is in fact a dire, ominous threat looming over mankind and all of life on Earth, the solution has the ability to not only pull us out of this crisis, but also to create healthier food and farming systems that will improve public health while regenerating nature’s ecosystems which promote biodiversity, soil health, clean water and a stable climate.

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