A Formula to Reverse Climate Change

3t C/ ha/ yr x 5 bill ha = 15 Gt C

     x 20 yrs = 300 Gt C

1ppm CO2 = 2 Gt C 

300Gt C/2 = 150 ppm CO2

402 – 150 = 252ppm

(or 13ppm below pre-Industrial Age levels)
C= Carbon   H= Hectare   Gt=Gigatons     PPM= Parts Per Million

The data strongly suggests that we can actually reverse climate change, not simply slow it down. And while different studies may use different formulas to measure impact the overall results should generate hope to anyone looking to prevent climate change from worsening.

There are all kinds of models and formulas about how soil restoration can affect climate change, but this one may be the simplest at showing how possible it is for us to not only slow down, but reverse it. Studies from a variety of universities and science-based institutions have shown that by restoring the health of industrially degraded soil we can draw down between 1 ton of carbon per hectare per year (Rattan Lal, study Ohio State link) and 9 tons (Richard Teague Texas A&M) depending on a variety of factors. Outlier studies show numbers as high as 30 tons per year. For purposes of this example the authors have used the Rodale Institute’s lower-range number of a 3 tons draw down per hectare per year (link).

In the United States alone, for example, restoring the one billion hectares of farmland would result in an annual drawdown of three billion tons of carbon. Globally, with five billion hectares used for farming and ranching the drawdown potential scales to 15 billion tons of carbon, or 15 Gigatons, every year. If we look out over the 20 year horizons highlighted by the United Nations and the COP21 agreements in Paris in December 2015 (link) that adds up to a possible reduction of 300 billion tons of carbon. And those 300 Gts have the potential to reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere to pre-Industrial Age levels, since each movement of one part per million of CO2 equates to 2 billion tons of carbon.

That means we could bring the currently dangerous level of 402PPM down to 252, which is not only less that the current goal of 350 ppm, it’s 13 ppm below where the level was before the Industrial Age.

No one is saying this will work this quickly, or scale up to include all five billion hectares of land used to produce food. Truth is, more research is being done all over the world to help us better understand what levels, what techniques, and what efforts will produce the fastest way to reverse the arrow on climate change.

But the good news is restoring the soil can rekindle nature’s ability to deal with climate change.

And that, in its self, would be a welcome change.

To learn more visit the Resources section.